When the nights start to get a little cooler, most gardeners take that as a sign that it’s time to roll up the garden and put it to bed for the year. Just because the crickets have slowed down their songs and the fireflies have put their lights away doesn’t mean you have to stop gardening. In fact, early fall is a great time to get one last hurrah out of your garden with a late season garden.
What’s a late season garden?
In many areas of the country, the first frost of the year isn’t until mid to late November, so when gardeners start to pull their plants in late August, they’re wasting valuable growing time. Many don’t realize they could squeeze in one last harvest even without growing indoors. There are several plants that can go from seed to harvest in less than 90 days, and others that will happily tolerate a light frost.
Plants that frequently appear in late season gardens aren’t limited to a few stray cabbages. Your late season garden will shine with any of these lovely veggies:
Beans – Needing about 60 days to reach maturity, green beans are quick to grow, easy to harvest and store well both frozen or canned. Even if your winters come a little early this year, you’ll get plenty of beans with successive plantings every week to 10 days.
Broccoli – Although some broccolis can take 100 days or more to mature, many varieties, including De Cicco and Bonanza Hybrid are ready in under 60 days. Check your favorite catalog carefully for quick maturing broccolis, but don’t worry too much if they are kissed by frost—they won’t be badly damaged.
Bunching onions – Like broccoli, not all bunching onions are up for the task of late season gardening, but varieties like Parade are perfect for the short growing window. Pull them all when frost threatens, or you’ll have nothing but onion mush to show for your efforts.
Cabbage – Both head cabbage and Chinese cabbage are excellent choices for the late season garden. Smaller cabbages mature more quickly and ultra small varieties like Toy Choi Hybrid Chinese cabbage will mature in 30 days—just make sure to plant plenty for everybody at the table.
Lettuce – Whether you like buttercrunch, leaf lettuce or bibb, you’ve got plenty of options when it comes to leafy greens. Lettuce can be persnickety about the weather, though, so look for a variety that’s slow to bolt or heat resistant if your late season garden starts when the mercury is still high.
Peppers – If your first round of peppers are spent, don’t worry—there’s plenty of time for some more. Both early sweet peppers and fast-maturing hot peppers can be grown during the late season and if you plant them in containers, you can bring them into your greenhouse before the first frost comes.
Spinach – Spinach is another option if you’re not a big fan of lettuce or cabbage and, provided you’ve got 50 days to spare, you can haul in a bumper crop. Baby spinach is often harvested in about 30 days, but you should leave some plants behind for mature leaves, too.
Tomatoes – Depending on what variety of tomatoes you planted this spring, your plants may already be done by the time fall comes around. That’s not a problem, though, nearly all cherry tomatoes mature in under 60 days, along with many determinates and several indeterminates like Early Girl. As with peppers, if you plant your tomatoes in large containers, you’ll be able to move them indoors and get even more mileage once the frost comes.
These are just a few of the plants that you can grow in the late season garden without any help from your greenhouse. If you put your greenhouse to work, though, the sky’s the limit. Selecting plants that need less than 75 days to mature will get you the best harvests with the least climate controlling expenses. By planting your fall garden in containers, you’ll have the option to move the tender plants indoors if they’re still bearing fruit when it starts to get really cold.