Has your summer garden not turned out like you thought it would? As usual, this summer season has brought with it challenging weather conditions for growing vegetables. The high humidity and rainfall have made plant diseases prevalent, and the insects sure aren't showing any signs of letting up. If your summer vegetables didn't pan out, there is always time for redemption with cool-season vegetables.
August is a good time to start planning your fall vegetable garden, but it can also be difficult to manage cool-season crops towards the end of the summer. Fall gardening is a balance between starting crops and getting them through the heat in summer, as well as planting them early enough to avoid the first frost of the year.
In our area, the estimated first frost date is around the middle of October, so I typically use October 15th. Whatever crop you are planning to grow, find the days to maturity and count back from the anticipated first frost date. This will give you latest date you need to plant by. On average, many of the cool-season crops need 50-60 days to mature before harvest.
Vegetables that can be seeded out in August include cabbage, collards, kale, turnips, radish, spinach, lettuce, beets, onions, and several more.
Because of the summer heat, it may be better to seed these plants out in flower pots or other containers for later transplant into the field. Keep the newly-seeded plants in partial shade and make sure they get plenty of water. These should be ready to transplant in September. Many garden centers will also have transplants available if you don't want to bother seeding yourself.
Just because the temperatures will drop slightly doesn't mean the threat of insect and disease pests will disappear. Keep watch over your new seedlings or transplants to make sure they don't succumb to pest pressure.
Use a layer of mulch and newspapers between your garden rows to keep in soil moisture as well as discourage weed growth.
If you are planning a fall vegetable garden, now would be a good time to have your soil tested. This will tell you exactly which ratio of fertilizer your soil needs. It will also let you know if your soil pH needs adjusting.