You may have heard the popular recommendation to “plant gardens on May 1st” or “plant on Mother’s Day”, and that’s not necessarily wrong, but it’s not the only time you can plant and still receive a harvest. If you haven’t planted a garden yet, you can still reap the many benefits of home gardening!
There are several crops that can be planted mid-summer for a fall harvest, including peas, radishes, lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets, Swiss chard, turnips, kale, kohlrabi, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. These crops are hardy in cold weather, and according to Dennis Worwood, Utah State University (USU) Extension Educator, vegetables that mature in the bright days and cool nights of autumn are typically milder and sweeter than those that mature in the heat of summer.
It does take a tiny bit of planning though. Some garden centers may not have seeds or plants available in the summer, so purchase your seeds now. If you have already started a garden, fall harvest crops can take the space of an already harvested spring crop, like peas or lettuce.
The date to plant depends on the date of the first fall freeze in your area and how long it takes the individual plant to mature. As a general guide, USU Extension suggests if your first fall freeze is in October or November you can plant as late as August. If your first freeze occurs in September, plant in July. You can check out their website at garden.usu.edu for exact frost and planting dates.
The same care and cultural practices apply to summer crops as well as spring crops. Follow the care instructions on the seed packet, and water, weed, thin seedlings and fertilize as necessary.
If you aren’t able to prepare for a summer planting, there is still an opportunity to plant some garden crops. Garlic and onions can be planted in the fall for a harvest the following year.
Onion bulbs or sets can be planted mid to late August and garlic can be planted anytime from mid-September to November.
Garlic is a little different from onions, in that you plant an actual garlic clove. You can purchase seed cloves from nurseries or even big box stores. You will find them in the nursery section, not the grocery section, as grocery bulbs have been treated to inhibit sprouting. Sometimes you can get one that will sprout and can plant it, but it may be a symptomless disease carrier, so it is not recommended.
Plant both crops according to the instructions and harvest them the following year when the stalks start to yellow and fall over. For exact planting and harvest instructions, visit extension.usu.edu/yardandgarden.
You don’t have to be a master gardener immediately; gardening is a skill you can improve year after year, like playing the piano or learning to knit. Start small and manageable and grow from there. The only time you can’t plant something is in the dead of winter, so what are you waiting for?