How many of you think of vegetable gardening as just a spring thing? That’s what we used to think in Pennsylvania, but since moving to NC (14 years ago) we have been pleasantly surprised at how well certain crops perform in the fall. For example, we never bother to grow broccoli in the spring since our springs tend to get too hot too quickly, causing it to bolt and develop a stronger flavor. Many other edibles also do best in cooler weather. Another great advantage we’ve found is fewer pests and diseases on the crops we plant in the fall. To continue enjoying fresh veggies into the late fall/early winter (lettuces, arugula, kale, collards spinach, mustard, broccoli, etc.), September is the time to plant these crops in your garden.
If you decide to start your fall veggies from seed (either indoors for transplanting later or direct seeding in the garden outside), most of them should be sown in July or August, depending on the number of days to maturity (typically listed by the seed company/on the packet). The vegetable starts being offered by Painters this fall were seeded last week and should be at prime planting time when we open on September 9th!
When you plant a fall garden, you need to take into consideration your average first frost date and choose varieties that will either mature before then or those that are cold hardy. Our customers’ zones range anywhere from Zone 5 (for those at high elevations) to Zone 8, with most folks falling in the Zone 7 or 7a range. Many varieties actually taste better after a mild frost (such as Flash Collards and Konan Kohlrabi). There is often a wide range in days to maturity, so keep that in mind and choose earlier maturing varieties for the fall. All the selections that we are offering this year range between 30-58 days and most of them are dual season crops (can be planted in spring or fall). Some fall vegetables can also be planted in containers, allowing you to move them indoors to a sunny spot once temperatures drop too low (this is a great option for most greens and herbs).
So, for those who enjoy extending their growing season in order to enjoy home grown veggies longer, consider growing or expanding your fall vegetable garden. You’ll have the double benefit of knowing you are eating fresher, healthier produce as well as saving on those ever-rising grocery bills!