In the Garden:
Soon your August planted spinach may have a touch of frost on it. Don't worry, this fall crop tastes even better after a light frost.
August is a very busy time in the vegetable garden. It seems every day I'm out harvesting beans, squash, tomatoes, peppers, kale, broccoli, artichokes, and herbs. It seems like the bounty will never end, but I know better. Once August slips by, the light levels in our northern climate dip significantly and fall and frost is definitely in the air. That's why it took me many years to gather the strength to plant more vegetables during this busy time. Although it would be easier to just the harvest contniue until it runs out of steam, I know that a little effort now will extend that harvest well into the holidays.
Planting to Succeed
Succession planting means planting small batches of crops many times throughout the season. I'm good about staggering my lettuce and bean plantings in spring, but have to remember to plant greens in August. Succession planting works well because as one crop finishes producing, it can be pulled out and composted, leaving room for another.
Start With Greens
For me planting a fall garden always starts with greens. Spinach, arugula, lettuce, mustard, and mesclun all grow well in our cool fall weather and are ready to harvest sometimes less than a month after germination. I clear an area of weeds, and wait for a fall rain to soak the soil well. This year it's been a long wait with drought in many northern New England gardens. I build a raised bed and sprinkle 2 foot by 2 foot-patches of seed of these various greens. Many plants grow slower in fall due to shorter days and less light intensity, but these crops don't seem to care. I also plant my cold frame filled with greens. The cold frame will protect the green from light frosts and extend the harvest time into November and sometimes December depending on the fall.
Cool Cole Crops
If you thought ahead you might have started some cole crops such as cabbage of broccoli indoors in July for transplanting outdoors now. If not, check local garden centers. Many will have transplants available or at least ornamental kale and cabbage seedlings available to plant that are also edible. Place transplants on raised beds protected with a floating row cover from pests. Transplants have many more insects to contend with in late summer than spring. Fertilizer lightly with a manure tea or fish emulsion.
Protect Root Crops
Although it may be too late for many gardeners to plant more carrots and beets (unless you just like beet greens), you can plant a fall radish crop and protect your summer root crops from winter's cold. Leave some of your parsnips, carrots and beets in the garden and before a hard freeze cover them with a thick layer of straw as winter protection. You'll be able to harvest roots for the holidays.
Garlic and Shallots
Fall is the best time to plant garlic and shallots. Clear an area, make a raised bed, fertilize with bone meal or a high phosphorous fertilizer and plant individual cloves about 6 to 8 inches apart in rows. Keep well watered this fall and after a hard freeze mulch with straw.
A little planting now will insure that the fall harvest will last almost until it's time to start seeds again for spring.
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