Fall Crops for Redeeming the Summer Garden

I went and did the thing that happens to some long-time gardeners now and then: I gave up on my garden. Well, let me temper that statement a bit. I didn’t give up so much as neglect the garden for long periods of time over the summer. And now that it’s the last week of summer, remorse and guilt have set in. Is there reason and time for redemption in 2016?

“Reason for redemption” is another way of asking if I have a valid excuse for neglect. Well, my summer was filled with travel. Weddings, birthday celebrations, family visits, business travel—that took a good chunk of my summer away. Plus I prioritized my personal fitness this season, too—I got back into running and daily yoga. Then there’s the dog that needs walking and isn’t allowed into the community garden. Plus two garden plots. Plus I was just so, so tired. I needed to not be so frantic. Something had to give. And I admit, the garden around the corner did see more attention than the one a mile away. I’d say my excuse, or excuses, are valid.

Is there time left in the season for redemption? I’m going to say yes to that. According to a recently released report New England is seeing more warm days and fewer days below 20F. Mid September has had some pretty warm days in addition to nippy nights. October has a way of staying warm, too. I think I have a great chance of getting at least one more crop of something out of the garden before temperatures turn frigid for good.

Today was the first day all summer (with just a few days left of summer to go) where we had prolonged rain showers. With the rain and temperatures in the 70s I decided to take my chance and plant a fall-to-early-winter garden. With just about seven weeks to go before the average first frost date, I’m hoping I will get lucky with one of the following:

Arugula: Recommendations are to direct seed arugula 4-6 weeks before the first frost. It’s a quick germinator and will hopefully sprout within the first five days. Many varieties are ready for harvesting within a month and up to 50 days.

Beets: Recommendations for beets are to sow seeds about 8-10 weeks before the first frost. With harvest times for the roots being around 50-70 days, I intentionally planted this crop knowing I may only get small beets but definitely a nice harvest of beet greens.

Radish: A sowing of radishes in the beginning of August resulted in all leave and no radish! The warm temps were encouraged leaf grow, bypassing a crop altogether. For a fall crop of small-diameter beets (the best kind, in my opinion) sow seeds directly into the garden 2-4 weeks before the first fall frost. I could still be a few weeks early in planting. To be sure I will plant another row each week for the next few weeks.

Spinach: For fall spinach, sow seeds directly into the garden 6-8 weeks before the first frost. This should give me good-sized plants to harvest just before a hard frost sets in. I can also expect to have spinach in March if I mulch these small plants very well right before cold weather hits.

I’ll keep an eye on the weather as temperatures dip, just in case the first frost comes earlier than expected. I do have a mini hoop frame that I can place over the crops should I need to protect them from cold temperatures.

Meet Ellen Wells

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