By Jane Milliman
Any true lover of vegetables knows Brussels sprouts are sweeter after they’ve been through a frost. In fact, there are lots of vegetables to be harvested after the traditional season of tomatoes and melons is over. So don’t give up on your gardening just yet! There are plenty of reasons to get back out there and grow.
What to Plant
Brussels sprouts are brassicas, like cabbage and kale, broccoli and cauliflower, even turnips and radishes. As a family, they all do quite well in cold weather. It’s worth planting them now in anticipation of a late harvest.
Experts disagree about the chance for success when sowing peas in mid-summer. Some think that the pea plants can’t take the heat, and that when the weather finally cools down enough to allow them to flourish, there’s not enough time before frost for a crop. So if you want to try a late sowing of peas, look for varieties that mature in a short amount of time; that information will be on the seed packets.
Use a Cold Frame
Crops like leaf lettuce, arugula, cilantro and parsley are easy to grow from seed and also super hardy, so if you use a cold frame, you can have crops nearly year-round. A cold frame is nothing more than a miniature unheated greenhouse, and you can make one yourself out of discarded windows you find on the side of the road (I’ve done this) or go a little fancier and buy one online or in a garden center (I’ve also done this!). Make sure to vent the cold frame and keep the plants watered on sunny days—the passive solar heat can really build up, even in cold weather.
Protect Your Seeds
When sowing seeds in the late summer, special care must be taken prevent them from frying in the sun. If you use flats, keep them well watered with your watering nozzle, and out of the wind. If you’re sowing right into the ground, water the area lightly before you set the seeds in, cover them with a little soil and gently water again. Then blanket the seeds with something to keep the moisture in—straw works well.
As a rule of thumb, seeds want to be planted about as deep as they measure from top to bottom. So tiny lettuces just need a sprinkle of soil over them, whereas peas need to be deeper. Also, larger seeds benefit from soaking in water overnight; it softens the seed coat.
If you are planting from starts—brassica starts are usually available at most garden centers—you’ll want to make sure to provide adequate irrigation with the right garden watering tools. Gilmour’s soaker hose is ideal for this situation, because it delivers water straight to the roots with little evaporation or waste. Using a timer ensures even better water conservation—you won’t forget to turn it off.
In the fall we get more rain and less dry, windy heat than in the summer, so it’s easy to forget those veggies out back still need to be watered. The truth is, you have to check on them just as often—especially if they are in a cold frame, where they won’t get that natural rainfall, and conditions are quite a bit warmer inside than they are out.
With the right care and garden watering tools, you can extend your growing season beyond summer, and enjoy fresh veggies well into fall.
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