Now is the perfect time to plant your vegetables. No, I’m not talking about tomatoes and peppers; they should have been planted two months ago.
The vegetables I’m referring to are late-season crops; those that are planted now and harvested after they’ve been sweetened by a tinge of frost.
Although many of us think of spring as prime planting season, late summer is the perfect time to succession plant.
Wherever there is a bare spot in the garden, plant a late-season crop for autumn harvest. I dug my garlic out a few weeks ago and plan to fill the space with a sowing of lettuce seeds. When my green beans finish producing, turnips go in their place.
The space where the onions were, at one time, at home, soon will house mustard greens and kale. I make use of every bit of space in order to maximize my harvest and keep the ground from sitting fallow.
To successfully succession plant, incorporate lots of organic matter into your soil. Because we are extracting a lot of nutrients from the soil by growing multiple crops in the same space, it is important to replenish those nutrients and keep the soil amended by using additions of organic matter in between crop sowings.
Two to three inches of compost, leaf mold, or well-aged horse or cow manure are worked into the soil before planting.
Also, whenever possible, rotate your crops. Try not to replant a member of the same plant family in any particular area for at least two seasons. Again, doing so helps replenish the soil and it also deters pests and diseases.
Because late-season crops need to mature fairly quickly before winter strikes, avoid planting veggies that take a long time to reach a harvestable size. Succession crops need to reach maturity in just two to three months.
Favorite late-season crops in my garden are radish, turnips, lettuce, spinach, kale, collards, chard, kohlrabi, cabbage, mustard greens, baby carrots, beets and cilantro.
Also, add a few of these crops in between your existing warm-season veggies. Sow a few lettuce seeds between tomato plants, sprinkle some radishes between rows of basil and start carrot seeds around your peppers.
Use succession planting to fill your fridge with fresh, homegrown vegetables for far longer than you thought possible.
Garden columnist Jessica Walliser and her radio co-host, Doug Oster, will be at all four Giant Eagle Market District stores on Aug. 5 — 9:30 a.m., Bethel Park; noon, Robinson; 2:30 p.m., Shadyside; and 5 p.m., Pine.
They will be giving a free gardening and cooking demonstration, discussing late-season gardening and giving away lots of gardening goodies.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.
Send your gardening or landscaping questions to [email protected] or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.