Many people think that the gardening/farming season is over with the advent of fall. But late summer is actually a great time to sow crops for harvest in the fall or even next year:
• Planting in late summer extends the growing season and maximizes space, allowing you to reap even more fresh veggies from the garden and giving you a jump start on food for next year.
• Improved flavor: When planted in late summer, the cold increases the sugar content and sweetens of vegetables like collards, kale, parsnips, and carrots
• Weeds and pests are also less of a problem at this point in the year.
Tips for more effective fall planting:
• Choose early maturing varieties of plants: Seeds planted in the late summer and early fall can take as much as two weeks longer to mature because of the cooler air temperature and shorter days. For this reason, some people recommend adding a 10-to-14-day “fall factor” to the days-to-maturity number provided with your seeds. Alternately, you can start seeds ahead of time and transplant them later
• Keep the soil consistently well watered so the seeds don’t dry out.
• Protect your plants with a layer of mulch—shredded leaves or straw. You can also use floating row covers or painter’s plastic (drop cloths) as a barrier against the cold, covering the plants at night once it begins to freeze and removing the material during the day.
• The first frost for the Providence area is generally sometime between October 11 and 20, but the weather is variable: there is always the chance that there will be an early cold snap and some plants will not make it. However, the potential benefits of fall planting far outweigh the risks!
• Root crops, leafy greens, and members of the cabbage family (cole crops or brassicas) do well in cool weather and can even tolerate a light frost. Here are some cold-loving vegetables that are possible to start in August or September in Rhode Island, which is in USDA hardiness zone 6a (click here for a complete planting schedule in PDF):
• leaf lettuce
• Asian greens such as bok choy/pac choi
• miner’s lettuce (claytonia)
• mustard greens
• scallions (green onions)
• carrots (when protected)
• Plant cover crops in the fall to boost soil nutrients
• “Wintering over” is another great option for your garden plot. Read on in our Winter Greens section for more info.