IT’S ALREADY TIME TO PLAN YOUR FALL VEGETABLE GARDEN
It’s already time to plan your fall vegetable garden
Believe it or not, it’s time to start planning your fall vegetable garden. Really.
Time waits for no gardener, especially when it comes to the fast-flying days of summer. If you want to keep harvesting fresh vegetables long after other gardeners are relaxing on the couch, you’ll need to start soon.
Cool-season vegetables help extend the gardening season, especially if they can be ready to harvest in about 60-80 days. The easiest method is to buy transplants of fall crops, although seeds work for some veggies, too.
The key to fall gardening success is selecting vegetables with the shortest time to maturity and then timing the planting. The goal is to make sure vegetables are ready to harvest before the really cold weather arrives.
Use a calendar to count back from the date of the average first frost for your area and match that to the number of days to maturity for each fast-growing vegetable you want to plant.
In Denver the average is around the first week in October, though it can be earlier or later. If 60-day broccoli is planted in mid-July, plan for a late September harvest. (Plants will be slower-growing than in summer.)
Other fall vegetable choices include beets, carrots, radishes, kohlrabi, parsnips and peas. Look for varieties that are promoted as cold-tolerant.
Spinach, kale, lettuce and Swiss chard are also good choices because they can be eaten while leaves are still small.
To plant, remove weeds and summer vegetables that are past their prime. Loosen the soil to about 6 to 8 inches deep and work in an inch of compost to give plants a good start. A light application of a balanced fertilizer will keep production high.
Water the space to reduce the summer soil temperature just before planting. Seeds can be planted slightly deeper than in spring to help them stay cool and moist. Keep the fall garden watered to give seeds and plants a good start. A light layer of mulch is a good idea, too.
As the summer days grow shorter and nighttime temperatures start to dip, be ready to cover plants with row cover cloth, sheets or plastic milk jugs. Some plants, like kale, might even keep producing into winter if they’re well protected from whatever weather comes their way.
Charlotte Gottlieb plants a row of broccoli, which she will harvest into the fall, in her garden in Arvada on June 30. Gardeners who want to harveset vegetables in the fall should plan now and start planting soon.