Edible Gardening

Tips for Growing Fall Cool-Season Edibles

By Nina Koziol

Although Labor Day has come and gone, there’s no reason to put your vegetable garden to bed just yet. From late August through September, I make the most of the Chicago area growing season by planting cool-season edibles — the same ones that I grow in spring.

Right now, I’m sowing seeds of leafy greens — bok choy, lettuce, Swiss chard, ‘leaf’ broccoli and kale  — as well as radishes, carrots and beets for my fall harvest. Seeds sown now germinate quickly because the soil is still warm and many edibles, such as radishes, can be harvested in as little as 28 days or so. And some greens, like kale, become sweeter as the temperatures drop.

Lacinato Kale / Dinosaur Kale   (Photo by Nina Koziol)


Which Cool-Season Edibles to Grow in the Fall

Cool-season crops prefer sunshine and cooler air temperatures. When grown in the summer heat, cool-season veggies tend to become bitter. Some, like lettuce, will send up flowers and produce seeds instead of sweet-tasting leaves

For lettuce, chard, kale and beets which have shallow roots, I sow their seeds in pots filled with soil-less potting mix or in four raised beds. In our largest bed, a 20’ x 55’ vegetable garden, I pull out rows of spent beans, squash and tomatoes, cultivate the soil, add a granular fertilizerand then rake the planting bed smooth. When sowing seeds in a bed, I use a bamboo stake or long straight stick positioned on the ground to keep the rows evenly spaced.

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