The Q&A Archives: When should I plant cool-season vegetables?

Question: I live in-town on a small lot so there isn't much space for gardening. Our city has a community project where you can "rent" a garden plot. The problem is that the plots are tilled and ready for planting the end of May/beginning of June, and the plots must be cleaned out by October 25. Lately we have been having good fall weather into November. When should I plant broccoli and these types of vegetables, and will they be ready for harvest by mid-October? I can plant corn to give them shade, if this would help.

Answer: Planning for a fall garden is a bit tricky. For some plantings, such as peas and beans, you need to calculate backwards from the average first fall frost date and add about a week or so (to allow for the slowing of growth as the season progresses) to the maturity date. In addition, the more cold tolerant vegetables such as cole crops, carrots, greens, and radishes can sometimes be kept going long after frost by use of a cold frame or other form of protection, so you can try successive plantings or earlier and later maturing varieties to try to maximize your harvest window. Since the cool weather slows down the plants later, you don't need to worry too much about keeping them cool early on. Making sure they have enough water is probably the most important thing you can do in the beginning. Keep records so you can refer back to how it works out this year, and good luck with your project!

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