Vegetables to plant in late summer for fall harvest & More Live News

When August arrives, it can be easy for a vegetable gardener to begin thinking about the end of the growing season.

By this time in the season, the back of your neck is likely sunburned, weeds may have overtaken certain areas of the garden and you might be asking yourself what you were thinking last winter when you decided to start 13 varieties of tomato seeds.

But August can also be a time for a fresh start in the garden for those who wish to start planting fall vegetables.

Cool-season and warm-season crops

The dog days of summer in August are when warm-season fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, squash, sweet corn, melons, peppers and others take over the Ohio garden.   

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These crops love the hot temperatures that send many a gardener in search of a shade tree and a glass of lemonade. Other crops such as carrots, beets, radishes, kale, leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and others, prefer the cooler soil and air temperatures of late winter, early spring, and fall, and thus are known as cool-season crops.

Many gardeners plant cool-season crops in late winter for spring and early summer harvest, but we can also plant many cool-season crops in the ground or in raised beds in late summer for harvest throughout the fall — and in some years, through the end of the calendar year without the use of any season-extension techniques.

Cool-season vegetables may grow in warmer temperatures, but the quality of the produce might be reduced because of the higher temperatures. 

Remember to do the math

Successful fall and winter vegetable gardening require the gardener to know the average date for first frost in the fall, the number of days to harvest for the cool-season vegetables to be grown, and the cold-weather tolerance of those vegetables.

For Greater Columbus, the average date for first fall frost is typically Oct. 10-15. Remember that this is an average, and the first frost can occur as early as September and as late as November.

If you wish to plant leaf lettuce for harvest before the first frost, and the variety of lettuce you wish to grow requires 55 days before harvest, you would need to plant the lettuce by Aug. 20. A variety of kale that requires 70 days to harvest would need to be planted today if you wish to harvest before the first frost.

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Cold temperatures are sweet

The beauty of planting cool-season crops in August is that many of them don’t need to be harvested before the first frost. In fact, many cool-season crops taste better after several frosts because the cold temperatures cause these vegetables to turn starches into sugars that act as an anti-freezing agent for their cells.

Cool-season vegetables that will be sweeter after frost include carrots, beets, rutabagas, turnips, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale and most leafy greens.

Here are some tips for success

When selecting specific varieties of vegetables to plant for fall and winter harvest, choose short-season varieties with fewer days to maturity in order to maximize growth quickly. A list of suggested varieties for fall and winter harvest can be found at go.osu.edu/fallveggievarieties.

The hot temperatures and dry weather typically experienced in August can sometimes make it difficult for some seeds to germinate. Before planting, to ensure that the soil is better able to retain moisture, work in a half-inch of compost to the seedbed. And be sure to irrigate between rains to keep newly seeded or transplanted crops watered. A layer of mulch can help keep soils from drying out quickly.

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Many gardeners who plant a fall and winter vegetable garden find that there can be fewer challenges than when growing vegetables in the heat of summer. There tends to be fewer insects, diseases and weeds during the fall and winter months; rainfall tends to be more reliable; and soils retain more moisture in cooler temperatures.

Just remember to slip on your garden hoodie and swap out your water bottle for your coffee thermos when heading out to the garden to harvest vegetables for your Thanksgiving dinner this November.

Mike Hogan is an associate professor at Ohio State University and an educator at the OSU Extension.

[email protected]

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