By Samantha Burbach, Director of Education & Programming – 08/04/2021
August is here and our gardens are thriving. Many early food crops have already been harvested, such as peas and lettuce, and many are starting to really produce – come on tomatoes! Although the days are beginning to shorten and we are nearing the end of summer (where did the summer go?), there is no need to think of the growing season as ending. Now is the time to sow a few more veggies in the garden to get a nice fall harvest.
Root vegetables are perfect for sowing now for a fall crop. Root vegetables prefer cooler temperatures, which is why we often grow them first thing in the spring. However, sowing now in the warm weather helps the seeds germinate quicker than in the cool soil temperatures of the spring. Root veggies that mature in the fall are more tender and develop a sweeter flavor than those sown in the spring since they are maturing into lowering temperatures, which initiates higher sugar production, rather than maturing into rising temperatures. Root vegetables mature quickly and will keep well in the ground through fall up until the ground freezes. Root crops generally store well and are delicious roasted, making them a great addition to comforting fall and winter meals.
A great tip when sowing root vegetable seeds now is to cover the soil after the seeds have been sown with wet newspaper to help keep the soil moist during hot August days. If seeds dry out while trying to germinate they will end up dying so it is important to keep the soil evenly moist during the germination period. This can be quite difficult during hot, sunny summer days, so a layer of wet newspaper on top of the soil will help keep the moisture in the ground. You will still have to water the area with the newspaper, but the soil underneath should not dry out between waterings as quickly as bare soil. Check under the newspaper every few days and after most of the seedlings have come up, you can remove the newspaper to let them receive the sunlight.
Root vegetables to sow now:
August is also a great time to sow various leafy vegetables. Lettuce, spinach, and kale all prefer cooler temperatures making them perfect for fall harvest. The heat of summer can make these greens bolt and go to seed which gives the leaves a bitter taste. Sowing these plants now will ensure that they are maturing into cooler weather, which can sweeten their flavors as well. Kale develops its sweetest flavor after a light frost. Greens have a quick maturity rate and can hold up well into fall.
Leafy vegetables to sow in early August (take longer to mature but hold up to cool weather very well):
- Swiss Chard
Leafy vegetables to sow in mid-late August:
Some legumes can also be planted now for a fall harvest. Bush beans are relatively quick to mature so it is possible to get a harvest in before the first frost, which will kill the plant. Peas can take longer to mature but they are a cool season crop that love the cooler temperatures. Sowing seeds now will get a harvest of sweet peas in before frost, but it is helpful to choose a variety that has resistance to powdery mildew since the plants will be growing through some hot, humid weather still.
Legumes to sow now:
- Bush Beans
Vegetables in the Brassica Family (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc.) absolutely love the cool weather. Fall is their time to shine in the garden. Most Brassicas take a long time to mature, but can tolerate cool temperatures and even frost so we are still able to harvest them well into October. It is often recommended to start Brassicas indoors as transplants rather than direct sowing in the garden, but there are a couple Brassicas that are easy to direct seed in the garden now.
Brassicas to sow now:
We normally think of planting onions in spring because it takes a long time for the bulb to develop and mature, but now is a great time to direct sow bunching onion seeds. Bunching onions are harvested for their greens rather than their bulbs so you can still start them from seed now and harvest them before the end of the growing season.
A tip for growing bunching onions is to “hill” the plants a couple times while they are growing to force the leaves to grow up higher. By piling up more soil around the base of the plant a few times, there will be a more elongated blanched stalk.
Bulbs to sow now:
- Bunching onions
There is even time to get another crop of herbs in! Many herbs in the garden have already flowered and gone to seed, resulting in poor tasting herbs. Basil, cilantro, and dill are all fast growing herbs that can be ready to harvest in about a month after sowing. You can finish out the season with nice fresh herbs and then harvest the rest of the plant for drying or freezing before the first frost comes.
Herbs to sow now:
- Cilantro (Cilantro can even survive a light frost!)
There are many veggies that you can still sow from seed now to fill in gaps in the garden where other crops have already been harvested and cleared. If you’re planting where other plants have come out of the garden, be sure to work the soil to remove plant debris (stems and roots) and mix in some fertilizer so that you replace the nutrients that have been depleted. Be sure to keep the soil moisture consistent, especially during germination since the heat and sun will dry the soil out quickly during this part of summer. As the temperatures cool and the days get shorter, the soil should not dry out as quickly and we may have more natural precipitation as we get into fall.
If you’re looking to extend your harvest this season, give a few of these fall crops a try! There is still time to sow many veggies from seed making it easy to add them into the garden and you’ll be eating fresh veggies through fall and maybe even into winter!