It may be hot outside, but now is the time to start thinking and planting for the second season vegetable garden.
The warm season vegetables are in full production, and the wheelbarrows are starting to overflow with squashes, corn, peppers and a few tomatoes. But now it’s time to replant those empty spots and fill them with plants that love the cool autumn months. Second season planting is key when trying to get the most out of the garden in an area where we truly see four seasons.
We technically have three seasons for growing outside. We have a short season for warm season crops, and with mild spring temperatures and extended autumn months, we end up with two longer growing seasons for cool weather plants. I know several Master Gardeners who are taking advantage of summer planting for fall and winter harvests. Fresh carrots from the garden seem to be much sweeter when harvested in December than the ones harvested now, which were planted in March.
Many people ask what a second season is. Essentially, it’s an opportunity to increase our harvest of specific crops – in this case, hearty greens like lettuces, chard, kale, beets, leeks, peas, spinach and radishes. But, that is just the small list. Add the plants in the Brassica family, which love warm soil temperatures mixed with cool fall air temperatures. So add to your list broccoli, broccoli raab, cabbage and collards. If you are all about herbs, now is time to bring back your cilantro that bolted and went to flower in the summer heat. Plant dill, garlic, chives and even chervil.
If you have space, you can start planting from seed, or you can check with your local nurseries to see who will be bringing in cool season starts. If the temperatures stay near the triple digits, you may want to wait another week before you plant, or place a hoop structure over your raised beds and cover them with shade cloth or a commercial white frost blanket to reduce the sun’s intense heat and drying factors. In general, you want to add a couple of weeks to the harvest time listed on the seed packet for fall planting. The reasons for adding the extra time for fall harvest are the shorter hours of sunlight in the autumn months. And don’t forget, if you love garlic, the best time to plant is in October or November for harvesting in July.
Depending on the area you live, your second season could be short or long. We never know when the truly cold temperatures will settle in, and in many cases, we still have ideal growing temperatures around Halloween. With cool fall temperatures above freezing, we harvest not only fresh greens but beautiful tomatoes too.
Knowing how cold air settles in your garden is also key to extending the season and getting the most out of your garden landscape. With a little advance planning, three separate planting times and some frost or heat protection, you can actually have a growing season outside from March through November in northern Nevada.
Wendy Hanson Mazet is the Master Gardener Coordinator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension in Washoe County. Have questions about your lawn? Contact a Master Gardener at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-336-0265.