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How To Extend Your Growing Season

This undated image shows a garden with cabbage and other seasonal greens in New Paltz, New York. Cool weather brings out the best flavor from vegetables such as kale, broccoli, and carrots. (AP Photo/Lee Reich)
This undated image shows a garden with cabbage and other seasonal greens in New Paltz, New York. Cool weather brings out the best flavor from vegetables such as kale, broccoli, and carrots. (AP Photo/Lee Reich)
How To Extend Your Growing Season
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Depending on where you live, you may be having hot weather or cold. If you have a garden, you may be able to plan for the next growing season -- no matter where you live or what the temperature.

For people having summer, now might be a good time to plan for, and begin planting, vegetables that grow well in autumn weather. And if you are having cold temperatures, you might want to start planning for hot weather planting.

Lee Reich writes about gardening for The Associated Press. He has also written many books on gardening. He gives suggestions on how to plan for another growing season.

Many people who are in the middle of summer may think their vegetable gardening days are nearly over. But growing autumn vegetables is like having another whole growing season in the garden.

Reich says that hot weather makes some fruits and vegetables -- such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers -- taste wonderful. However, the same hot weather makes cool-weather vegetables -- such as spinach, lettuce, and peas -- tough and taste bitter.

Cool, slightly wet weather, he adds, brings out the best flavor in vegetables such as kale, broccoli, and carrots. This is true even when temperatures go below freezing.

And the fall harvest season is long. With shorter days, there is no danger of such vegetables as spinach and Chinese cabbage going to seed. This is called “bolting.” For example, broccoli and cauliflower plants stay tight until they are harvested.

Three promises

Reich gives specific advice for those now having summer.

Before planning for a harvest of autumn vegetables, Reich says to make these three promises.

The first promise is to maintain the nutrients in the soil. Most of the autumn’s leafy vegetables are heavy feeders. And your garden has already had one growing season. So, Reich suggests adding fertilizer, lots of compost, or other organic matter to the soil.

The second promise is this: Do not forget to water. Seedlings beginning life in midsummer need lots of water. Natural rainfall and cooler temperatures will lessen the need for watering as autumn nears.

And the third promise: Spend a few minutes weeding regularly throughout the season. Summer weeds take up space that you could use for fall vegetables. They also compete for water and nutrients.

Next, timing

To figure out when to start growing autumn vegetables, look on the seed containers for the “days to maturity.”

Cool weather and shorter days are going to greatly slow growth as fall approaches. So, count on any vegetable being ready for harvest around the time when cooler weather begins in your area, and days become regularly cooler.

For vegetables that you start growing inside and then transplant outside, add four weeks to that time. This is the time they would need to grow to the right size for transplanting.

First cool-weather planting

Depending on how soon cooler autumn weather arrives at your garden, now (or soon) may be the time to plant these vegetables: broccoli, endive, winter radishes, cabbage, carrots, beets, and parsley. These all need a long time to mature.

Plant these seeds directly in the garden. You can also plant them in containers, then move them to their permanent homes outside in about a month.

Second cool-weather planting

Then a couple of weeks later, start planting lettuce, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and collards. For Chinese cabbages, make sure to check the days to maturity. Some types take only 50 days to mature. Some types take much longer.

Now, let’s talk about autumn lettuce. This first planting of cool-weather lettuce should be the first of many. Every two weeks plant small amounts. Do this until about a month before the average date of your first frost. Reich says this should give you a constant supply of lettuce for your meals.

For this second planting, you might follow earlier plantings such as bush beans or sweet corn. Reich says that you can plant seeds in containers inside. Then transplant them about three weeks later.

The nice thing about using containers, he says, is that there is no need to plant a whole row at once. You can transplant outside to your garden as space becomes available.

Third cool-weather planting

You can continue planting even when cooler weather has begun to settle in. Directly in the ground, you can plant spinach, mustard, arugula, and turnips.

When it is cold, it is often difficult to buy seeds at stores. If that is the case where you live, Reich says to order seeds by mail or online.

I’m Anna Matteo. And I'm Alice Bryant.

Lee Reich wrote this story for The Associated Press. Anna Matteo adapted it for VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.


Words in This Story

tough – adj. not easily chewed

bitter -adj. having a strong and often unpleasant flavor that is the opposite of sweet

fertilizer – n. a substance (such as manure or a special chemical) that is added to soil to help the growth of plants

compost - n. a decayed mixture of plants (such as leaves and grass) that is used to improve the soil in a garden

soil – n. the loose surface material of the earth in which plants grow

weed – v. to remove weeds from (an area of land, such as a garden)

maturity – n. the condition of being fully developed

transplant – v. to lift and reset (a plant) in another soil or situation