Fall Vegetable Garden

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The fruits of hard labor ripen on the vines of the Agroecology Education Farm.

The summer heat and humidity often cause our gardens to languish, but it doesn’t need to be that way. July and August are an excellent times to plant vegetables and herbs for harvest through the fall and even into the winter months.

Mid-July is a good time to reenergize your garden by planting a second round of warm season crops. You can replant bush beans, pole lima beans, and tomatoes (especially if you lost plants to TSWV earlier in the season). When choosing varieties, look for options with short “days to maturity” to ensure you harvest before the first frost. When choosing tomatoes, determinant varieties such as Celebrity and Amelia are a good option since they set and ripen their fruit in a relatively short window. So you can harvest more fruit before the first frost. Consider replanting if you lost your summer squash or zucchinis to squash vine borers. We are past the flight period for these moths in our area, so while you will have other issues to look out for, squash vine borers shouldn’t be one of them.

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Set out a couple of new basil plants to replace your early crop, which will be going to flower by now. Let the old basil plants flower. Basil flowers are a favorite of bees and other beneficial insects. Now is also a good time to start cool season root vegetables with a longer growing season, such as carrots and rutabagas.

In mid to late August, you can plant cauliflower, broccoli, collards, cabbage and turnips. These members of the mustard family will grow well past the last frost. I find they do best as transplants at this point in the season. Keep a close eye on them and stay one step ahead of caterpillars through regular scouting. Applying a product containing Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) or spinosad at the first sign of caterpillar damage will protect your crop while minimizing the impact on beneficial insects. Another option is to cover the row with a fabric row cover. Row covers physically prevent pests from reaching your crop. Just remember that you will need to scout regularly under the row cover to ensure that pesky bugs don’t make their way under the cover and have a field day in the protected area underneath.

Try planting a round of edible pod peas like sugar snaps or snow peas. While they don’t appreciate the warm weather at the end of summer, they will produce well past the first frost in the fall.

Herbs such as dill, cilantro, and parsley grow best during the cooler weather of fall and spring. Starting in mid to late August, make several plantings two to three weeks apart for a consistent supply.

Just remember to save a little space in the garden because early September is an excellent time to plant cool-season crops with a short growing season. Radishes, lettuce, and spinach will be ready to harvest within a month or two of sowing. Harvest lettuce and spinach as “cut and come again” crops to harvest earlier and extend your harvest window. When the new seedlings get up to 3-4 inches tall, cut them with a set of kitchen shears being careful not to damage the growing point at the base of the plant. These little plants will resprout and can be harvested this way 3 or 4 times. Put out onion sets and garlic cloves in September or October for harvest next spring.

With a little bit of planning, you can harvest vegetables out of your garden every month of the year in coastal North Carolina!