The vegetable garden had a wonderful spring and early summer season. The cooler conditions and timely rain made growing fresh vegetables almost too easy.
Unfortunately, when the heat of summer arrives many gardens begin to wilt. But for you diehard gardeners, those that enjoy harvesting and eating fresh from the garden, don’t overlook the fall season. Planting vegetables now is a great way to extend your harvest into the fall.
There are advantages to gardening later in the season. Insect pests tend to be less of an issue in late summer and fall. Vegetables that mature during cool fall days often have better flavor than those that mature in the hot, dry days of summer. And many of those fall vegetables can be left in the garden and used as needed later.
When to plant
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Planting dates depend on two factors: how long the crop takes to develop, and its frost/freeze tolerance. Lettuce, spinach and radishes take less time to develop and can be planted in late August through early September. The average first frost in the Kansas City area occurs around mid-October.
What to plant
Cool-season crops are best adapted to fall. However, beans, cucumbers and summer squash can be grown as fall crops.
Beets, turnips and carrots are root crops perfect for growing.
Lettuces, spinach and kale can be planted in August through mid-September.
The most difficult challenge of fall gardening is establishing seedlings. The hot, dry summer wind and sun can quickly dry out the soil. Timely watering is key. The good news is that seeds planted in the warm soil germinate more rapidly, speeding the whole establishment process. A light layer of mulch also will help shade the soil to retain moisture. The last trick is maybe to sow the seeds just a little deeper in the soil to keep them moist.
This item was edited for length. Dennis Patton is a master gardener with the Johnson County office of the Kansas State Research and Extension agency. To read more on this or other topics or to get answers to your gardening questions from him and other Extension experts, go to KCGardens.KansasCity.com.