We know that quite a few of our customers like being able to grow their own vegetables. When you grow your own, you know exactly what went into them; so if you want organic fruits and vegetables, then you’re in control. While most summer gardens are winding down for the year, it’s not too late to plant late-season or fall vegetables. You’ve done all of that work getting your garden ready, so what could be better than getting a little more out of it, than stretching your growing season out and carrying fresh vegetables into the autumn months?
If you had early spring plantings, then you’re looking at much the same vegetables for fall. We’re talking about cooler weather, so it just makes sense that those vegetables that grew well in the early spring, would like autumn in the DC area. So, when you’re gathering your seeds, etc. for planting, here’s what you’re looking for: carrots, beets, broccoli, cabbage, Swiss chard, kale, peas (bush peas are better than climbers this time of year) and all kinds of salad and Asian greens. Most of these can be direct-seeded right into the garden, but broccoli can be started indoors in the summer months under lights or in a greenhouse to protect it from the hot sun. The best way to choose which seeds to sow depends mostly on your first frost date (to find out when your first frost date is, check here). Once you’ve found your first frost date, check the back of the seed packet for the number of days to harvest, (try to choose disease-resistant varieties that mature quickly) and count backward from your first frost date—then add two weeks (because most plants grow more slowly as the days begin to shorten). Once you’ve calculated all of this, you’ll know if you still have time to sneak in a late-season planting.
Early fall is also a great time to make a permanent place in your garden for hardy perennial herbs, fruit bushes and fruit trees. You should be able to take advantage of end-of-the-season sales on oregano, marjoram, thyme, sage, sorrel, mint, blueberries, strawberries, currant bushes, grapes and apple, plum, peach and pear trees; you’ll probably find some great deals and the cooler temperatures will allow the roots to become established before the winter kicks in. You’ll get next to nothing from these plants this year, but next year, they’ll be ready to go as soon as spring makes an appearance.
The weather has been a bit unpredictable this year, so if your first frost threatens to come a bit early, cover your plants with burlap or another breathable fabric (try to keep the fabric off the actual stems by propping the fabric up with stakes or other material). Remove the fabric during the day and replace at night. If you have vulnerable plants in containers that are too large to bring indoors, try pulling them under the eaves of the house and placing them close together to protect them from frost.