Our summer growing season at Stoney Creek Farm has officially come to a close. Every summer, we host our U-Pick Garden, allowing the public to purchase and pick their own fruits and veggies from our garden. It’s one of our favorite parts of the summer!
This year, Mother Nature had a shakeup for us: a picking season that usually lasts 6-8 weeks lasted only 5 weeks this year. Oh well, that’s the unpredictability of weather for you!
Although the summer growing season is over, that doesn’t mean the gardening fun has to lie fallow just yet!
There are several vegetable varieties that crave the cooler weather just as much as we do. (Who is ready for some humidity relief?!)
Below are 5 cool-season vegetables ready to be planted—right now!
This fast-growing, hardy, frost-tolerant plant is a happy camper for your fall vegetable garden.
Plant your seeds ¼ inch deep into well-draining soil, keeping each seed about an inch apart. Arugula seeds will germinate within a few days and be ready for harvest as soon as 4 weeks after planting. You’ll know it’s time to harvest when leaves are between 2 – 3 inches long.
For a fall full of arugula, continually sow new seeds every 2 – 3 weeks.
Beets can’t be beat (see what we did there?) when it comes to your fall garden.
Live up north? Beets are your friends. These hardy fall crops can survive frost and near-freezing temperatures.
You can begin planting beets now up until 6 weeks from your area’s average first frost date.
Beets love full, bright sun and soil that isn’t too rocky. Sil pH balance should be between 6.0 – 7.0. Sow seeds ½ deep and 1 – 2 inches apart.
Seeds will germinate within 5 – 8 days in soil that’s 50°F and above. However, beets can grow in soil below 50°F, germination will just take longer: usually between 2 – 3 weeks.
Keep your soil regularly watered. Newly-planted seeds will need to be watered 1 – 2 times a day until germination.
Beet seeds are actually a cluster of seeds, so you’ll need to thin plants once they are about 4 inches tall. Beets are ready for your dinner table usually around 55 days after planting. Roots should be the size of at least the size of a golf ball (but no larger than the size of a tennis ball).
Broccoli is a true cool-season vegetable, enjoying moderate temperatures between 45° – 75°F. These good-for-you greens can even tolerate temperatures as low as 20°F.
For those in warmer climates, sow seeds 85 – 100 days before your first frost. Generally, you’ll be able to harvest your broccoli 70 – 100 days from sowing.
Plant seeds ½ inch deep and about 3 inches apart. Keep your broccoli well-watered, between 1 – 1 ½ inches each week. However, once your broccoli begins to develop heads, ensure that you don’t get these wet when watering, as that can cause rotting.
Beware planting broccoli next to pole beans, strawberries, or tomatoes, as they tend to compete for the same nutrients, hindering plant production.
For a handy dandy list of companion plant dos and don’ts (and so much more!), check out our Gardening Without Pesticides E-Book.
When you think of fall, do you imagine a hearty stew filled with your favorite filling veggies? We sure do. And carrots are always included in that ingredients list.
Carrots are root vegetables, which means soil quality is the difference between a stew-ready carrot, or a misshapen or stunted carrot.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends these steps for preparing your soil for carrots:
- “Till down 12 inches and make sure there are no rocks, stones, or even soil clumps that could impede your carrots’ growth.
- Avoid amending the soil with nitrogen-rich material such as manure and fertilizer, which can cause carrots to fork and grow little side roots. Instead, work in old coffee grounds.
- If your ground soil is heavy clay or too rocky, you should consider planting carrots in a raised bed at least 12 inches deep and filled with airy, loamy soil (not clay nor silt).”
Once the soil is ready to go, plant your seeds about 10 weeks prior to your zone’s first frost. Sow ¼ inch deep and 2 – 3 inches apart. Keep your soil regularly moist, but not soaked, for the seeds to germinate.
Germination takes between 2 – 3 weeks.
Fun carrot fact: The smaller the carrot, the better the taste. Additionally, taste improves after a frost or two. The Almanac recommends covering your carrots with “an 18 inch layer of shredded leaves” after the first frost to protect your carrots and allow you to keep harvesting them even as the temperatures drop.
Read the Almanac’s full guide on the care of your carrots.
Kale is a true autumn-loving vegetable, tasting better when grown in cooler weather—and just like carrots, kale’s taste improves after a frost or two.
Kale prefers a soil pH level between 5.5 to 6.5. Plant your kale 6 – 8 weeks before the first frost, planting ¼ inch – ½ deep, then thinning seedlings so that each plant is 8 – 12 inches apart from one another.
Keep soil cool and moist. If you live in a warmer climate, you can provide mulching around your kale to keep soil temperatures lower, as kale tends to prefer soil temperatures between 60°F – 65°F. Too much heat, and your kale will be bitter. (No thanks.)
When kale leaves grow to the size of your hand, they are ready to eat. Harvest kale leaves from the outer leaf “rings,” where the leaves are the most mature in the plant. Your kale will continue producing so long as the “terminal bud” (found at the top center of the plant) remains intact.
Kale will grow happily in cold temperatures—even as low as 20°F. However, a snow or a particularly heavy frost will cause the plant to collapse under the weight.
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