By Cindy Naas
We’re more than halfway through the summer, sad as that is to say.
That means, though, that it’s time to start thinking about fall crops to be started soon.
The first round of lettuces are probably turning bitter, the spinach is a happy memory- but for the clever gardener, those veggies and more will get a replay by starting soon.
- Lettuce: After the lettuce starts tasting bitter or hot or turns tough, it’s time to let it go. Dig out the plant and compost. Now, you can direct seed a heat tolerant variety. Or, you can start lettuce seeds in a shady corner of your garden. Pot them into small peat pots, newspaper cones or just seedling trays, and you’ll have the new lettuce plants ready to be popped into the ground in mid-August.
- Spinach: This is one of the earliest crops in spring. For spinach lovers, fall is a great chance to have one more round of tender tasty spinach. And if you’re like me and didn’t get it planted in time early in this season, you can still get some this year. Spinach is best direct seeded. Wait till the second week of August in most zones to plant your fall spinach crop.
- Arugula: Another wonderful salad crop, this green gets very bitter when the hot weather arrives. You can get a second crop by planting in late August in temperate zones or early August in the cooler part of the country. Arugula freely reseeds if you allow it to bolt, by the way, so if you plant a fall crop, allow it to set seed. That will give you the earliest possible crop of arugula in the spring.
- Mustard greens: This green hates heat. For the northern gardener, mustard might not be a successful fall crop, because starting it too early can sometimes give you hot bitter greens. However, for those in zone 7 or better, wait till September to plant mustard and if you have a long warm fall, you’ll still be eating mustard greens in October.
- Swiss chard: I use ‘Bright Lights’ to add more colour to parts of my garden which can look a little tired in the heat and humidity of August. Chard seems fairly happy to grow in the hot weather, so I do a series of plantings all summer long. The chard I grow in August isn’t as big and vigourous as that from early spring, but it is still flavourful. Chard is one veggie which seems to be in my garden at all times until the final hard freeze.