neighborhood garden for july 14, 2012



now is the time to plant A FALL garden

by george edgar


          Many are frustrated and tired of working in their garden because of the early spring and then the hot dry weather that has caused all kinds of problems including many weeds. However, if you would like fresh lettuce and spinach for your salad, or fresh beans, beets, or carrots to serve your family, it is not too late to start over in your vegetable garden. Now is the time to start planting a fall garden. You still have time to plant bush beans, beets, cucumbers, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, okra, peas, radish, spinach, swiss chard, zucchini squash, and turnips. 

          When planting a fall garden in July or the first part of August, the application of a light mulch will help cool the soil and aid in germination.  Some gardeners pre-sprout their seeds indoors before planting outside.  Sprinkle the seeds between moist paper towels, roll up, and place in a plastic bag. Don’t put in the refrigerator. Put on the counter and check the seeds daily.  Plant the pre-germinated seeds as soon as possible after sprouting, allowing the roots to grow no longer than ¼ inch.  If planting seeds directly outside, the soil surface should be roughed up to aid in seedling breakthrough and then a mulch to conserve moisture.

          According to a publication from Earl May Nursery and Garden Centers, “A must for planting a garden in midsummer is moisture.  Hot, dry soil can delay germination if the soil is not kept moist after planting.  Planting the seeds deeper than usual is also an advantage.”

          “When the new crop is planted in the heat of the summer, it may take more care in the beginning, but the harvest of fresh produce in the fall will be worth it.  Crops mature in the cooler fall weather creating tastier vegetables than in the spring.” (1)

          When selecting and buying seeds for your fall garden, select the shortest season cultivars available to insure harvest before a killing frost arrives.  Look for cultivars labeled “early season”, or are located in a section for “Fall Garden” or labeled as such.  You can also compare the number of days to harvest.  This number is usually printed on the seed packet or in the cultivar description in seed catalogs.  For example, the leaf lettuce we usually plant in the spring and in the fall is labeled as ready in 46 days.  This means from planting the seed to first harvest is usually 46 days.  The nice thing about lettuce and spinach is you can cut it off instead of pulling up the plant and it will grow back for a second and sometimes third cutting. The spinach we usually plant is labeled as ready in 42 days.  My favorite radish is ready in 27 days so they can be planted anytime between the lst of August and the first couple weeks in September.  To extend your radish crop, plant a short row every week in August rather than planting a long row all at once.

          To determine if you can plant a particular vegetable and have a crop before frost, take the date of the usual first frost, subtract the number of days the package says between planting and harvest, and that gives you the latest planting day. It is best to allow an extra week or two, as many crops grow slower in the cooler nights of September.   

          The usual first frost (when the air temperature gets to 32 degrees F) in Lincoln is about October l0th to the 15th, depending upon who you talk to or what book you read. In the Kearney, Hastings, Grand Island area it may be a few days earlier. The latest it has reached 32 degrees in Lincoln is November 7th. The median date for the first hard freeze (air temperature reaches 28 degrees F. or lower) is October 21st.  Quite often there is a warm period (Indian Summer) after the first frost that allows your fall garden to grow some more. Remember the ground temperature in the fall and winter is warmer than the air temperature so some crops and plants will stand a light freeze.

·        Beans, Beets, Carrots, and Cucumbers plant between now and first week in August

·        Lettuce, Okra, and Peas plant between now and August 10th – 15th.

·        Turnips and Radish need to be planted before September 1st.

·        Spinach can be planted between August 1st and September 15th. (1)

          Check with your full service garden center for a list of vegetables, recommended varieties, and suggested planting dates. Or contact your local county extension office for a copy of “Fall Vegetable Gardening” (NebGuide # G98-1343) or see the web sight at the end of this article. (2)

          My wife always has a fall planting of beets, lettuce and spinach. With a little protection on cold fall nights, they will grow for some time if the rabbits don’t get them.  Some years we have a specialty lettuce plant called Corn Salad Mix or Mache that we pick in the fall and then as an added bonus, grows all winter in a protected area. On cold fall nights and then for most of the winter we cover it and our fall spinach with straw or a broken “sneeze guard” from a salad bar. The Corn Salad Mix and the fall planted spinach that over winter are the first crops out of our garden in the spring about the time other people are just planting early crops. With very little snow last winter we had spinach and lettuce before most gardeners planted their seed.

          Try a fall garden this year and extend your harvest.


(1) “Plant a Fall Garden”, free reference sheet with suggested varieties, planting dates, and days to maturity from your local Earl May Nursery and Garden Center. Or go to “”. On left click on Edible Gardening then click on “Plant for a Fall Harvest”.

(2) University of Nebraska Extension Publications “”. In search box on left type in “Fall Vegetable Gardening” or “G1343”. (Any University of Nebraska NebGuide can be downloaded for free from this sight.)

Copyright 2012