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What Vegetables to Plant in Late Summer | Almanac.com

What Vegetables to Plant in Late Summer

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What to plant end of summer to keep harvest going!

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Think you can’t plant vegetables in late summer? Think again! From hardy spinach to ravishing roots to autumn-planted onions, let’s look at which vegetable seeds to sow while the soil is warm!

If you’ve got empty spaces in your garden beds, scratch some veggie seeds in the ground, pronto! There’s still lots to plant for more harvests once earlier crops are finished. Planting in succession when crops are harvested means that you can squeeze even more homegrown goodness from the space you have. Learn more about planning for succession gardening.

There are other reasons to enjoy late summer/fall gardening. Pests are less frequent and some vegetables actually taste better and are more successful this time of year. Plus, it’s just not as dang hot!

Sowing Lovely Leafy Greens

Let’s start with some green—leafy lovelies to keep the salad bowl full on into autumn. Try sowing seeds of a non-hearting or loose-leaf variety of lettuce directly into the prepared ground. If it’s too hot during the day, you may be better off delaying sowing until the evening, when it’s cooled down a bit.
 A 
li
ttle shade in the form of a plank,
 netting or shade cloth will be welcome if it’s too hot. See the Lettuce Growing Guide.

To harvest lettuces on into winter, plan to sow a winter
-
hardy variety in September or so. Ideally, sow the seeds into plug 
t
rays first and then plant them out at their final spacings
 in raised beds.
 Plant a foot 
apart. Once it turns cold, set up my temporary cold frames for those 
lettuces growing o
utside
.
 

Other superb greens to sow now include Asian greens like pak choi.
 Here’s a list of fast-growing Asian greens.

Sowing Ravishing Roots

Now for some root crops. These should be 
in
–
a
nd 
out
 
b
efore temperatures 
take a
dive for winter
, though some of the roots will happily sit through the
 winter in milder areas
.
 Sow maincrop carrots, a final sowing of beets or
 beetroot, some summer
 radish
, and some turnips
.
 Sow all of these seeds direct
ly into the ground in a space recently vacated by another crop that’s been pulled.

If you added compost to beds back in the spring, there should be enough nutrients to
 carry these final crops through the season, but rake in a sprinkling of blood, fish and bone, to give it a little extra boost. Learn more about organic soil amendments.

Sowing carrots

When you sow carrot seeds, it’s important to sow them thinly
 which will sa
ve 
time
 when it comes to thinning seedlings so they are not too crowded. Also, by not thinning, you are avoiding
 the risk of attracting carrot fly. 
Thankfully, this late in the summer, carrot fly tend
s 
to be less of an issue
.

Give sown carrots a thorough watering and then cover the rows with
 thick netting. What this will do is keep the soil shaded and cool, helping it 
stay moist too. Carrots prefer it nice and cool to germinate, so this helps shield the soil from the hot summer sun. This is less of an issue in milder regions 
but if you experience hot summer
s
,
 it’s a vital step!


With carrots, you could harvest the smaller, tender roots
 quite quickly, but also leave them on to grow on to full
-
sized carrots to lift as
 and when needed throughout the winter.
  See the Carrot Growing Guide.

Sowing beets or beetroot

Beet seeds are nice and chunky. 

This makes them 
easier 
to space out.
 Interesting fact: Each seed is a seed capsule, so you are likely to get a few seedlings popping 
up 
from each
 one. You can let these grow on as clusters, or if you want especially big beets you 
may want to thin the seedlings to leave just one at each position.
 There’s some debate as to which is best. Smaller roots
 are easier to manage and have a better texture.

The bee
ts will be harvested as needed as soon as they reach a good size
–
from 
about the size of a golf ball. If the variety is pretty hardy, leave some of the 
roots where they are, and lift throughout the winter. If a really cold snap is
 in the forecast, lift 
all the remaining roots
, pack them into breathable boxes of damp
 sand or old potting mix,
 and bring them into the outbuilding to protect them.

See the Beet Planting Guide.

Sowing radish

Next
, 
a row of radish
! Radishes can be unreliable earlier in the season; the lengthening days seem to encourage them to 
bolt, or flower prematurely. Sowing later in the summer means the days are 
getting
 shorter and temperatures will start to cool from the warmest days of midsummer. When you sow radish seeds, you can plant willy
-
nilly, fitting in here and
 there where you have space.


Also consider winter radishes like mooli
or daikon 
radish
,
 which will take longer to grow but give bigger, beefier roots that are perfect for
cooking with.
 They have a crunchy texture and a gentle, peppery tang.
 See the Radish Growing Guide.

Sowing turnips

Turnips are a beautiful maincrop variety that will start to 
crop in early aut
umn.
 Again, turnips are less likely to bolt when sown now. A lot of people overlook how amazing turnips are; they give two crops for the effort 
of one
–
leafy tops for stir
-
frying and the roots. Thin to 9 inches apart. The thinnings can be enjoyed, too. 
 See the Turnip Growing Guide to learn how to plant turnips.

Sowing Hardy Vegetables

Some of the hardiest vegetables will sit out the cold months to give a
 harvest either during the winter or next spring. Some of these vegetables are excellent choices for
 plugging what we call the “hungry gap” when not much else is growing. Think of these veggies for 
harvesting next spring:

  • Chard
  • Winter spinach
  • Cabbages

Colorful Chard

It’s best to plant seedlings of Swiss chard so grow in plug 
trays (or buy at a nursery). They can go out in a month or so when you’re digging out all the zucchini to makes efficient use of space. Chard needs wider spacing so they also need their own growing space.

Hardy Spinach

Hardy varieties of spinach can be sown by seed directly into the ground. Spinach will need thinning
; the 
thinnings will be perfect 
in salads, then the deep
-
green mature leaves will be
 wonderful wilted or steamed for a hit of goodness.
 Like so many cool
-
season vegetables, spinach and chard are far less likely to bolt
 if sown in late summer.


Spring Cabbages

And how about cabbage? If you garden in a hot climate, you will want to germinate cabbage indoors
 (
inside the house i
n the cool of the air conditioning) 
before very gradually acclimatizing them to outside temperatures
—perhaps 
initially
 somewhere shaded, before moving them out into their final places. Keep the ground nice and moist and offer additional shade when necessary 
until the temperatures cool off in autumn.


Autumn-planting onions

Now is also the time to sow autumn
-
planting onions
, also sold as Japanese 
onions, as they were originally bred in Japan
. You can start these from seed
, sowing into a seedbed to grow on into young plants,
which are then dug up and 
transplanted into their final positions, at their final spacings. Or you could start
 them from sets
 (tiny immature bulbs). If you’ve have downy
 mildew in the past, perhaps skip this crop and try an early
-
to
-
mature onion,
 which is usually ready up to a month earlier than spring
-
planted onions.


You can
 also sow winter
-
hardy salad or green onions now too, which will
 overwinter to give salad onions next spring.


Leafy Herbs

Finally, don’t forget that late summer’s a great time to be sowing h
ardier leafy herbs 
like 
cilantro or coriander, and parsley. As with any of our late
-
season and into
-
winter
 crops, remember you can easily extend the growing season by simply covering the plants up
–
whether that’s with a sturdy row cover, cloches or mini tunnels, or by growing them in
a hoop house or greenhouse. That little bit of extra protection can extend the growing
period by as much as 
four weeks
, while kicking spring off up to 
five
 weeks
 earlier.

Video: Watch organic gardener Ben as he sows these seeds in late summer for a fall harvest. It’s very helpful to see how it’s all done!

What NOT to sow now

In many regions, it may be too late to sow some of the winter brassicas like kale
 and hardy sprouting broccoli. However, if you still find young plants for sale that are 
ready to plant, go for it.

Unless you live in a warmer, southern climate, it would be extraordinarily optimistic to
 sow warm
-
season veggies like cucumber, beans and zucchini at this point
. They just wouldn’t have enough warmth to 
really
 thrive, even if the
 zukes did hang on in
 there.
 This is why each vegetable has pretty specific times of when to sow and plant
–
you need to take into account all these variables.


When to Plant Fall Vegetables

See the Fall Planting Dates for common vegetables. We incorporate not only time for growing but also time for harvesting, plus we consider the fall temperatures and day length.

Or, the seed packets or online descriptions will tell you exactly how many days it takes for YOUR variety to mature. You can use that number and work backwards from your first fall frost date
 to see if there is still time to grow in your area.

If it
’s
, say, 90 days until your first fall frost date and your seed packet or planting calendar say
 
it’ll take just 75
 days to reach maturity
–
then go ahead and sow it. But as I say, only do this if you
r garden gets good, consistent warmth throughout late summer and autumn.

A Final Tip: Select fast
-
maturing varieties
 for this time of year!

Looking for more advice? See our article on best vegetables to plant for fall!

2023 Almanac Club