Believe it or not, it really is time to plant a fall vegetable garden. I know, I know, it seems hot right now. However, those cold-hardy plants need to germinate in the warm soil now. By the time cooler weather arrives, the plants will be growing.
I am sure you are asking, “What do I plant? I thought gardening was for spring only.” Well, the WSU Publication, Home Vegetable Gardening in Washington EM057E, lists several veggies that will grow well until the first frost arrives. It is possible to gather various fresh garden vegetables through October, depending on what you like and where you live in the Columbia Basin.
Here’s a list of fall veggies to consider: beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, green onion, kale, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, turnips.
According to Kris Nesse, WSU Master Gardener volunteer, most locations are “in Zone 6B, with smaller pockets of Zones 6A and 7A. You can check your own backyard using the USDA’s interactive map: planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/InteractiveMap.aspx.
Kris says “The PHZM indicates statistically when first and last frosts occur.” Looking at the PHZM interactive map, you will note that for Zones 6A, 6B, and 7A the first frost date is October 15, and the last frost date is April 15. So, how do you plant for the fall?
Here is a rule-of-thumb planting guide, keeping the fall frost date of October 15 in mind:
1. Start with the fall frost date of October 15.
2. Count back the total number of days from seeding to harvest. This will vary among the vegetable varieties you plant. Since snow peas take 70 days to harvest, I have seeded them already. If an early frost kills them, I will plow them under.
3. Then count back another 14 days to account for cooler fall temperatures and shorter hours of daylight, both which slow down plant growth. Err on the side of having veggies to harvest by planting earlier if you wish. I forgot to do that last fall. However, you may shorten the 14-day leeway if you really want to push limits. If you are comfortable with that, go for it.
The result will be the estimated day to plant the vegetable seeds for a fall harvest. This fall, radishes, carrots, Swiss chard, and snow peas appeal to me. Last fall, I put out fava beans too late and, of course, they did not make it, except for one plant that is thriving even now.
More about fall planting next week.