Just because the days are cooler and shorter, doesn’t mean you have to put your vegetable garden to bed. The shoulder seasons of spring and fall are best for growing those edible plants that practically melt when hot, humid summers arrive. In fact, this is the prime time for root and tender greens.
Start the following plants from seeds and sow successive crops for fresh veggies on your table in just a few short weeks and continuing on for several months. Direct sow beets, arugula, carrots, celery, chard, cilantro, dill, endive, fava beans, garlic mustard, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, green onions, mustard greens, parsley, peas, potatoes, radishes, rutabaga, shallots, spinach, swiss chard, and turnips.
Starting from seeds gives you a greater selection to choose from and also more bang for your buck. One additional benefit of starting from seed is that when it comes time to thin your seedlings, almost all of them are edible. Baby spinach greens, pea shoots, and radishes are especially delicious.
A trick to getting your peas to germinate quickly is to soak them for a few hours in a cup of water before you plant them. This softens the seed coat and results in more successful yields.
You can also purchase small seedlings of broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kohlrabi to get a head start on the cool growing season so that they mature before the ground freezes in winter or the heat descends in late spring.
Once established, give your seedlings a boost of natural plant food so they can grow fast and strong. You also want to ensure even, frequent watering, if there is no rain in the forecast.
The cooler months mean fewer garden pests as well, though it is a good idea to cover your seedlings with a light spun cloth to insulate them on cold nights and to keep insects out. You will also want to stay on alert for slugs and eliminate any spots that they may hide in, such as under pots and bricks.
This is also the time to think about establishing perennial beds of asparagus and rhubarb. Plant them now and you’ll be rewarded with harvests of these edibles for several years to come.
Pansies, violas, and calendula can also be direct-sown now to beautify your veggie patch in the cooler months and to attract pollinators. You can even pick a few of these edible flowers to decorate your salads and plates. Enjoy these days of milder weather and soft rain. Most of all get out there and get growing!
By Kathy Jentz