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Planting a Second Season Crop

August 23, 2011

Boy sowing seeds in gardenMid to late summer is a great time to plant seeds for a "second season" crop. After harvesting early maturing crops like salad greens, radishes, peas, and spinach, plant a second wave of your favorite cool-season vegetables for a bountiful fall harvest. Even in the coldest zones, there is still plenty of time for varieties to grow and reach maturity before the first frost.

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It's All About the Timing

The key to growing second season vegetables for a fall harvest is timing. As the growing season marches on, the days will get shorter, the soil cooler, and the sun's rays less intense. The first step is to determine your average first frost date. Then look at the seed packet for days to maturity and add another 14 days to that number to account for the shortening days. Once you calculate the days to maturity, use that number to calculate back to the seed-starting date. To ensure a harvest before cold weather arrives, select "early" or "fast-maturing" varieties for planting.

Plant These Mid-Summer Crops for a Fall Harvest

  1. beets: 30 to 60 days to maturity; survives temperatures in the high 20 degrees F
  2. broccoli: 50 to 70 days to maturity; survives light frost

  3. Brussels sprouts: 50 to 70 days to maturity; hardiest varieties good to 20 degrees F

  4. bush beans: 45 to 65 days to maturity; killed by frost

  5. cabbage: early varieties mature in 50 days; hardiest varieties good to 20 degrees F
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  6. cauliflower: 60 to 80 days to maturity; survives light frost

  7. cilantro: 60 to 70 days to maturity; survives light frost

  8. garlic: harvest the following July; winters over in ground

  9. green onions: 60 to 70 days to maturity; survives high 20s (F)

  10. kale: 40-65 days to maturity; hardiest varieties good to 20 degrees F

  11. leaf lettuce: 40 to 60 days to maturity; survives light frost

  12. mustard greens: 30 to 40 days to maturity; survives light frost

  13. radishes: 30 to 60 days to maturity; dig until soil freezes

  14. spinach: 35 to 45 days to maturity; survives light frost; may overwinter

  15. Swiss chard: 40 to 60 days to maturity; survives light frost.

  16. turnips: 50 to 60 days to maturity; survives light frost

Don't forget about the flowers! Lots of annual and perennial flowers thrive in cool weather and can be sown mid-summer for fall blooms. Try annuals like alyssum, candytuft, calendula, stock, and sweet peas; or perennials like bee balm, toad lily, red-hot poker, or evening primrose.

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Preparing the Soil

Before sowing second season crops, turn over the soil and mix in some balanced fertilizer to replace what earlier plants have used up. Leftover plant debris like stems or roots from the first planting can cause problems in seed germination, so make sure to remove this material as completely as possible.

Seasonal Protection

Mid-summer heat can be stressful to seedlings and transplants normally grown during the cooler, wet weather of spring. Keep the soil moist as your seeds are germinating and protect young seedlings from the hot afternoon sun. Salad crops, which prefer cooler soil, can be started indoors and transplanted outdoors as soon as soil temperatures start to cool down a bit. When the weather turns cold, extend your plants' season by growing crops under row covers and cold frames.

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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 858 Posts
September 7, 2006

Late summer and early fall is the perfect time to squeeze a second season of vegetables out of your garden. For crops like corn, the warm days and cool nights of fall concentrate their sugars, which acts to enhance their flavor.

rows of lettuce

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