Here in the United States, in the whole Northern Hemisphere actually, we have hit the peak gardening season. This is the time of the year when we are reaping the rewards of our winter and spring work. Some crops are peaking; some are done and ready to be removed to make room for planting your fall garden.
There is still plenty of time left before the first hard frost date for your fruits and vegetables planted in the spring and early summer to mature plus plant a fall crop of many varieties of vegetables and decorative flowers and ground cover.
Some of the most common types of vegetable garden plants that do well in the fall are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, mustard, radish, kohlrabi, spinach, lettuce and shorter seasoned beans.
Plant your broccoli 10 weeks before your first frost date. Because you are planting the seedlings while the summer days are still hot, mulch them to help retain moisture and to keep the soil cool.
Brussels sprouts are great for your fall garden. The flavors are actually enhanced when harvested in the cooler weather. Start seeds in June and set plants out this month.
Start your cabbage and cauliflower plants six to eight weeks before your first frost date and transplant them into the garden after they have a couple sets of leaves. Like broccoli, they will need protection from the heat and sun and they need rich, fertile soil.
Sow turnips in the early part of August to follow an early crop that is done.
Rutabagas, or Swedes, need to be sown twelve weeks before your first frost date. Plant in fine, loose soils and keep it moist. This allows the globes to form properly and prevent forking.
Mustard, radish, kohlrabi, spinach and lettuce can all be sown as close as four to six weeks before your first frost date. Just pay attention to the particular variety's requirements.
It is not too late in most areas to sow a crop of shorter seasoned beans to be enjoyed as snap or green beans this fall.
When planting seeds in the heat of summer, remember that you may need to plant them a bit deeper than normal since the surface layer of soil will dry out more quickly than in the spring.
Other activities in your garden at this time of the growing season to maximize the quality and yield of your harvest are to harvest and process beans, carrots and cabbage now while a bit on the young side; top and side dress heavy feeding plants like squash and zucchini by working well composted steer manure or compost around the plants; inspect plants and remove any unwanted insects or egg clusters while watering, Where tomatoes are subject to sun-scald, pick the fruit as they first start to turn color and let them finish ripening indoors.
Additionally, this is the time to harvest many of your matured vegetables. Dig potatoes as soon as the tops have died. Depending on your area, they may store better in the ground than in the cellar. Also you should pick lima beans while still green, harvest and eat the early onions first. The white and sweet onion varieties generally do not store well whereas the yellows typically store the best.
Now is also the time to thin late beets, keep mature peppers and eggplant fruits picked so that the smaller fruits will develop, continue to sow lettuce, blanch cauliflower heads by pulling the leaves around the heads and fastening with twine or string, pick cucumbers as soon as they are large enough to be used for fresh eating or pickling. Keep them well watered so that bitterness is avoided.
Place developing melons on a board so that they are protected from rot and insect attack.
Remove raspberry canes after they are done producing but be sure that you do not injure the developing shoots that will be next year's producing canes.
Harvest many herbs now, before they flower and are at their spiciest. Dry thoroughly and store in airtight containers in a cool, dark place for best results or infuse them in oils and extract the essential oils for cooking flavors or fragrances.
Empty soil should be planted in a good cover crop, such as winter rye or wheat. Sow early in the north so that the crop gets well established before the first hard frost. Turn the crop into the soil next spring as a green manure.
Don and Sandy Landers are owners of Dream Garden Hydroponics, LLC, 102 Dayton Road, Marietta, (740) 373-4711.