As the warm weather of summer glides into autumn, areas of the country with mild winters can start their second season of gardening. It’s time for the late season harvest. And it’s the time to start a brand new garden. Late summer through autumn is the ideal time to seed cool season crops while warm temperatures persist enough to germinate those seeds.
So, what plants qualify as “cool season crops”? Here’s a list that can get you started:
Annual and biennial seeds (plants you will crop during the first year of growth)
- Asparagus peas
- Brussels sprouts
- Chinese greens and mustards
- Fava beans
Root vegetables (most grow well year round) and bulbs
Perennials (that come back year after year)
Like most edibles, cool season vegetables will perform best in rich, friable soil with plenty of compost. Most vegetable plants prefer soil a little on the sweet side rather than acid, but usually aren’t too fussy. Clear the planting area of weeds and make sure soil is moist to a depth of at least six inches. Then plant your seeds according to the instructions on the packet. Larger seeds usually grow into bigger plants and should be spaced wider, but that is not always the case. Sometimes small seeds can birth remarkably large plants.
If you get ample rainfall to keep newly planted seeds moist, you won’t have to add extra irrigation. But if you go through a dry spell or live where the rainy season has not yet begun, you will need to make sure seeds stay moist. If they dry out, they will die before germination. If they germinate and lack water before they have grown a well developed root system, you will also lose them. So make sure your cool weather crops get a good strong start. Healthy seedlings are the first step to getting big, tasty vegetables.
Seeds can be started indoors but most cool weather crops do just fine when planted where they will grow (in situ). Plants like peas, cabbage and leeks have no problem being transplanted if you do want to start them indoors. Gardens that are bothered by heavy seed-eaters like mice and rats may do better with transplanted indoor seedlings. Most pests seem to leave chard, garlic and onions alone in my garden. But different critters sometimes have different tastes in different locations.
Cool weather gardening can be comfortable for both gardeners and vegetables. Grow your edibles from seed or already started plants you can buy or germinate yourself. Take advantage of a second gardening season if you live where winters bring no more than light frosts. Cool season gardening can offer exercise, fun and tasty rewards.
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