My zucchini plants are just about done for the season so that is going to free up one of the raised garden beds. It is only the end of July and there is still plenty of warm weather left until the last frost. I live in Connecticut which is in zone 6. The first frost is usually around Halloween. That leaves me with about 3 more months to plant and grow more vegetables.
I must consider these two factors when deciding what to plant mid-summer.
Days to maturity
Where I live, in zone 6, I have about 90 days before the first frost. However, there are a few more factors to consider. By the end of September, the days are significantly shorty, so less sunlight, and nighttime can dip down into the 40’s. So, I need to plant something that can tolerate the cooler nights with less sunshine.
Will we eat it?
There is no point in planting something if it is just going to wind up in the compost pile. Kale for instance, is a very hardy vegetable but …. Yuck. If I know that we will not eat it then I do not plant it. It is that simple.
The days to maturity are between 50 to 70 days, so around the end of June, beginning of July is when I will start germinating the seeds inside so that they will be ready to plant outside by the end of the month. This should be enough time to produce broccoli heads. If we get any frost warning early, then I can cover them overnight with the mini greenhouses made from 5-gallon water bottles.
When transplanting the seedlings outside, try to space them 3 feet apart. You can plant them closer, but the yields will be smaller.
To care for broccoli, it is important to water them well and watch for pests daily. When it is time to harvest the heads, make sure that you cut the head off on an angle so that water does not collect on the flat stalk discouraging a chance for a second one.
Cabbage loopers have been a huge problem in my garden. They are small, green caterpillars that will devour the leaves on the plant. You can tell they are eating your broccoli if you start to see holes on the leaves. If you catch them in time you can turn the leaves over and pick them off by hand. Otherwise, a natural insecticide/pesticide with “Bacillus Thuringiensis” will need to be used to get rid of the caterpillars.
Swiss Chard (Pink)
I will be completely honest, I have never grown or eaten Swiss Chard. But one of the many things I like about gardening is experimenting. I have read that you can sauté it and substitute it for spinach, and it is super healthy. And lastly, it is hot pink so I think that it will look really cool in my garden.
This variety of Swiss Chard takes about 65 days to mature, a little longer than I wanted, but it will survive light frost so I should have plenty of time from the garden to table. Sow seeds ¼ inch deep about 1 foot apart.
This is another family favorite (even my son likes them). We usually eat this vegetable as a side, boiled, and only adding a pinch of salt.
The days to maturity are between 45 to 65 days and are killed by the first frost. I started a little late this year so I wanted seeds that would produce faster. This year I am trying a new green bean, called Tendergreen from SeedsNow. They are heirloom bush bean and take only 55 days (I will update this post at the end of the summer and show the results).
I have had the most success growing green beans in my garden. They are super easy to plant. The seed is sewed directly into my garden, burying about 1” into the soil. Give them plenty of sun and water and they will grow even faster.
The other reason I like to plant green beans mid-summer is that they add nitrogen back into the soil. Nitrogen is especially important for the growth of vegetables. My zucchini plants are done producing so I can replace this crop with green beans to help prepare the soil for next year.
Clover (White Clover)
This next fall crop is not something that we would eat, just like green beans, it adds nitrogen back into the soil. Our tomatoes will be producing up until the end of summer and by that time it will be too late to plant a second crop in this raised bed.
Clover is a type of “green manure” or cover crop that is grown to add nutrients back into the soil. The ideal time plant clover is in the spring, a couple of weeks after the last frost. However, it can be planted in the fall six weeks before the first heavy frost and it will last thru the winter.
Only two ounces of seeds for 1,000 square feet is needed. Mix the seeds by gently raking them into the ground about a 1/4-inch-deep and water daily until germination takes place which is about 15 days.
When spring arrives, it will continue to grow until we are ready to plant our tomatoes again, keeping unwanted weeds down until we are ready to turn the soil.
Other types of cover crops will make it through the winter such as winter wheat and rye but, I thought this would be fun for our son to search for 4 leaf clovers.
When starting a crop mid-summer for a fall harvest in a zone like Connecticut, it is important to select a plant with minimal “days to maturity” and can survive colder temperatures. The three vegetables I chose should produce, on average, in about 50 days. Both broccoli and Swiss chard can survive a light frost and will provide a steady crop into October.
I am looking forward to harvesting these vegetables in the fall and trying some new dishes. Even though Swiss Chard is new for us, experimenting in the garden is always exciting and at least it will add some color to the garden. Clover will add some nutrients back into the soil and get my son excited about searching for 4 leaf clovers.
I would greatly appreciate any suggestions or comments and let me know what you are planning for your fall harvest!