Extend Your Summer Garden Into Fall
Gardeners in the NC piedmont and coastal plain can extend their summer vegetable gardens into fall by making a second planting of quick maturing warm season crops between mid July and early August. Warm season crops do not tolerate frost so stick with varieties that will have time to mature before cold weather sets in. On average, the first frost for much of the central NC piedmont occurs between Oct. 21 and Oct. 31, which means frost sensitive crops planted at this time of year need to be able to grow and mature in less than three months.
Some of the best warm season crops for a fall garden are members of the squash family, such as cucumbers, summer squash, and zucchini. These quick maturing vegetables typically begin to produce 50-60 days after being seeded in the garden. It is too late to start a fall crop of winter squash such as butternut, acorn, or spaghetti squash, which require 90 days or more to mature. The term winter is this group of squash’s name refers to the fact that they will store through winter, not that the plants are winter hardy.
Snap beans, also known as green beans, are another great warm season crop for fall. Expect to begin harvesting 60 days after sowing. Bush varieties typically mature 7-10 days earlier than pole varieties. While it is too late to start a fall crop of slower growing summer vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant from seed, you can set out young plants if you can find them.
Spice up your fall garden with herbs. There is still time to make one more sowing of basil, a warm season annual herb, but wait a few more weeks before planting cool season annual herbs such as parsley, dill, and cilantro. Plants of perennial herbs such as rosemary, sage, chives, oregano, and thyme can be planted spring, summer or fall in sunny areas with good drainage.
Plan to expand your fall garden by planting frost hardy, cool season crops later this summer. Mid August is the correct time to begin seeding cool season favorites such as lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets, mustard and turnips and to set out plants of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and collards (learn more about growing these plants from seed). For more on planting times, see these NC Extension publications:
- Vegetable Planting Calendar for the NC Piedmont
- Check the average first fall freeze date for your location
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