Victory Garden: Third Round

The third round of planting in the Victory Garden takes place in August. By this time, you should have some space opening, or you could also just be tired of green zucchini and ready for something else. Summer plantings are also called succession plantings, the idea is to maximize the growing season by replacing a harvested or failed crop with one that will flourish into the fall. If you are replacing a failed crop, try to understand why it failed and replace it with a crop that has a better chance of success. When preparing soil for fall crops, this may also be the time to consider a low tunnel or a cold frame to extend your season well into the winter. Although planting the spring garden is fun, I find succession plantings to be more enjoyable than the spring. You are not worried about soil temperature or a late frost, you can still see outside at 9:15pm, the beds have been prepped once so the real hard work is already done. Lastly, with a little luck, you can be serving these plants to family as you gather for Thanksgiving or even Christmas.

One of the easiest crops to add to the garden currently is lettuce or any leafy green. Lettuce crops are super quick to germinate and thrive in the cooler temperatures of fall. The downside to a late lettuce is that most lettuces will not tolerate a good frost. However, if you use crops like chard, kale, spinach, or collards, you can pick them well into January if not through winter in its entirety. Make sure you have a good bit of nutrient in the soil when you plant for fall. To be so healthy for us, these plants need an appropriate amount of nutrient in the soil to grow well. Beans are also an excellent fall crop. You can pick some varieties, just 6-7 weeks after planting. 

Cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and kale are members of the brassica family. Also, included in this group are radishes and cauliflower. These plants pull sugars when the nights are cool and even give the best flavor after a light frost. Quick growing varieties such as Rapini or Broccoli Rabe, can be planted as late as mid-September for a late fall harvest. Be sure to look for aphids on your brassicas, they will be tough to see initially, but they multiply quickly so be prepared.

A quick herb crop should also be considered at this time. Have you been harvesting your herbs a bit aggressively this year? Do not hesitate to plant basil from seed if you do not have enough pesto stashed to last the winter. Another fan favorite is cilantro. Cilantro thrives in the cooler temperatures. If you decide to plant in early August, try to find a shadier spot in the garden. Other herbs to consider for a quick crop include Thyme, Chives, Mint, and Parsley. 

Root vegetables are a wise selection for fall planting as well. Carrots can grow well into December on the southern shore of Lake Erie. The ground also stores them very well. Check them regularly, but unless we have a super wet fall you can leave your carrots in the ground until the ground is almost frozen. Radishes and beets also thrive in the cooler temperatures of fall. When planting root vegetables, remember you will enjoy the benefit of the ground being far warmer than the air in the late fall. They will keep growing well after the frost has wiped out your peppers.

Regardless of what you fancy in your fall garden, use this time to get some extra produce and maximize what is left of the warm weather.

Jim O'Bryan

Publisher, Lakewood Observer, Inc.

Volume 16, Issue 16, Posted 3:41 PM, 08.19.2020