It’s August, and the window of opportunity has passed for planting tomatoes, peppers and most types of beans. However, if you have an empty space in your garden and you’re itchin’ to fill it, there are several veggies that will do just fine.
Your growing zone does matter, however, and you face a challenge if winter comes early in your area. Read seed packets carefully to determine if you can harvest a crop before Jack Frost makes his first appearance.
Look for quick-maturing varieties with shorter growing seasons. The cultivar name will often give you a clue, and may include words such as “early” or “winter.”
1. Cucumbers have plenty of time to produce an abundance of fruit when planted in August. Look for fast-growing varieties, either bushes or vines.
2. Kale is a cool weather crop that can be planted now for harvest in fall and winter.
3. Lettuce planted in early- to mid-August provides a delicious fall crop. In late August, plant varieties such as “winter gem” or “arctic king” for harvest in late autumn or early winter. Plant lettuce in a shady location if days are still hot. Mulch plants or protect them with a row cover in the event of cold snaps.
4. Spinach is ready to harvest in about 45 days, but you often can enjoy tender, flavor-rich, baby leaves in less time than that. Harvest the leaves at the base of the plant and the smaller leaves will continue to grow. You can enjoy spinach this way for several weeks, or until the plants are nipped by frost. Although spinach prefers cool temperatures and light shade, it will tolerate sun when daytime temps are cooler.
5. Baby arugula is ready to eat in 21 to 40 days. Toss the tender leaves in salad, sprinkle them lightly with vinaigrette and grated parmesan, or chop a few for your favorite pizza. The flavor is more mild and delicate than mature, full-size arugula.
6. Radishes are good eating in about a month, and some types are ready to harvest as soon as three weeks. Look for standard spring radishes like “cherry bomb” or “crimson Giant,” or try winter radishes such as “black Spanish,” or “winter China rose” for a very different flavor experience. You can always add the tiny radish greens to salads.
7. Endive is a frilly salad essential that loves cool weather. Most varieties need at least 45 days, and some may require a couple of months, so check those seed packets.
8. Beets love cool weather and tend to do well when planted six to eight weeks before the first average frost date in your area. If you’re short on time and cold weather comes early, harvest the beets when they’re as small as an inch in diameter. Keep in mind you can always harvest beet greens even sooner. For a change of pace, try a beet with maroon or blood red leaves, such as “bull’s blood.” The leaves are tender and juicy, and the color adds real zing to your salads.
9. Collards generally take 60 days to gain maturity, but the tender baby greens are ready much sooner. Similarly, mustard greens are ready for salads in about 45 days or less.
10. Turnips may sound like an unlikely success story for August planting, but varieties such as “Tokyo cross” and “market express” are big enough to eat in just 35 to 38 days. If frosty weather looms, grab a few of the tender greens. Turnips may be bitter and less than perfect in hot weather, but cooler temperatures mean sweet, mild turnips.
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