2017-07-13 / House & Home

The Gardening Guy

Veggies you can Plant Now for Fall Eating
Henry Homeyer

Arugula seeds germinate quicklyArugula seeds germinate quicklyRed meat radishRed meat radishHappy richHappy rich  Most gardeners don’t think of July as the time to plant seeds in the vegetable garden. But it should be. This is a good time to plant many things including broccoli, Happy Rich, lettuce, kohlrabi, fall radishes, carrots and beets. With good warmth and plenty or rain (or water from your hose), these plants will probably do better now than in if they were planted in the spring.


          If you planted peas, spinach or lettuce early this spring, you probably have a bed that is empty now. Instead of just growing weeds, why not get out your seed packets and plant a second crop in that bed?


          In the spring I generally plant seeds in those little black plastic 6-packs. I do that because the soil outdoors is cold and wet, and seeds are prone to rot. Now, however, the soil is warm and seeds will germinate much more quickly. All you have to do is check them daily to be sure that the soil has not dried out.


          Broccoli, if you read the seed package, takes about 55 days to maturity. So if you plant in mid-July, you should be picking heads of broccoli in mid-September or even a bit earlier. Read the seed packets carefully: as I peruse my Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog, I see broccoli varieties that mature in anywhere from 48 to 80 days. Some varieties like ‘Arcadia’ (63 days) are listed as “Tolerant of cold stress.” That one also says it makes lots of side shoots. Since broccoli produces well into October for me, getting side shoots is important.


          So how should you plant broccoli if you have always put it in as nice little plants that you – or the local grower down the road – has grown? I would suggest planting 3 seeds in groups about 16 inches apart. Why 3 seeds? First, not every seed will germinate, so I like to ensure that at least one will come up. But rather than plant them like carrots in a long line, just plant a few seeds where you want one plant. Then as soon as the plants have 2 real leaves, pull out all but one. And since you’ll see leaves in clumps every 16 inches, you won’t have a hard time identifying them - even if you have never done it before.


          One of my favorite veggies is one you might not know: Happy Rich. It is a non-heading broccoli type plant. Instead of one big head, it produces many small heads similar to side-shoots on standard broccoli. I get seeds from Johnny’s Seeds. A similar plant is piricicaba, which I get from Hudson Valley Seed Library. Both are quick to mature and have sweet flavored florets. I find they are tasty even if the florets don’t get picked on time and they produce white or yellow flowers. And the leaves are tasty, too!


          Carrots and beets can take 55 days to maturity, or up to 80 days. Select early varieties for fall crops now. Yaya and Mokum are both under 60 days, while most storage carrots are about 75 days – which still means they will be ready by the end of September – and long before hard frost.


          I suggest buying pelleted seeds for carrots if planting now. Pelleted seeds are coated with a layer of clay, which means they are much larger and easier to handle. Plant them an inch or two apart and they will not be competing with each other as tiny seedlings – and will grow faster. Planted an inch apart you will not have to thin them until they are edible-sized.


         I planted lettuce and arugula seeds in late June. Arugula, which is basically a weed, germinated right away. Both need little or no soil cover – they need light to germinate. I try to plant lettuce once a month all summer and into the fall to keep it coming. Hot weather encourages lettuce to bolt, or produce flowers and seeds. Once the plants start to elongate in preparation for flowering, they get a bit bitter. Edible, but not as sweet.


          Swiss chard is another quick and easy crop that you can plant now. My High Mowing organic seed catalog has half a dozen different varieties that mature in 50 to 60 days, and produce baby greens in 25. I particularly like the ‘Rainbow Mix’ that has stems of yellow, red and orange. And did you know that beets and Swiss chards are just variations on the same species? Yup. And you can eat the roots of Swiss chard like beets when you pull them in the fall.


          My favorite radish is one that I will plant soon: ‘Red Meat’ radish from Johnny’s seeds. It is red in the middle instead of white like a watermelon. It never has the sharp bite of a spring radish, and stays nice even when the radishes get to be golf ball-sized and bigger. If planted in spring, it bolts.


          In the past I’ve had good luck planting daikon radishes in the summer for fall use, too. These Japanese radishes get huge, and have a distinctive bite. Many use them for pickling.


          So get out there and plant some seeds. Just be sure that they stay well-watered and most things will do just fine. Even many green beans only need 55 days. So if you were too busy to plant before the 4th of July, get started now.


Read Henry’s twice-weekly blog posts at https://dailyuv.com/gardeningguy You can sign up for an e-mail alert each time he posts. You may reach Henry at PO Box 364, Cornish Flat, NH 03746 or henry.homeyer@comcast.net.

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