Thinking of Starting a Fall Vegetable Garden? Now’s the time to start!

| 7/19/2018 12:00:00 AM

A common misconception is that fall crops are sown in the fall but if you wait until September to sow that final crop of lettuce or peas, they will have barely emerged from the soil when cooler and shorter days slow their growth to a crawl. The result?  Little to no harvest.

Fall crops are harvested in the fall, not sown in the fall – which means that you need to get those crops sown during the summer so that they have time to mature by your expected first frost date. When it comes to fall crops, days-to-harvest is one of the most important bits of detail on the seed packet.

When it comes to growing vegetable to harvest in the fall, the goal is to have a full sized crop, or nearly so, by the first frost date. It’s not as simple as subtracting the days-to-harvest from your first frost date, however. Since weather in the fall gets progressively cooler with fewer daylight hours, crops take longer to mature when compared to a spring planting. So in order to give them sufficient time, you need to add at least 1-2 weeks to the total days on the seed packet.

Working backwards from your first frost date, it’s often surprising how early you have to sow in order to harvest in the fall. Oregon Sugar Pod Snow Peas, for example, take 56 days to mature. Adding 2 weeks results in an expected days-to-harvest of 70 days – working backwards from my first frost date on Oct. 3rd, I would have to sow the peas by July 25.

Many crops are great candidates for a fall crop, namely those that appreciate cooler temperatures and are also relatively quick to mature.