by Bill and Mary Weaver
Growers who take advantage of the opportunity to plant in July and August for fall and late fall harvest can reap significant additional income. Timing is important. Choosing varieties that grow well in cool weather also helps to ensure success.
Here are some tips from growers across the U.S. about what vegetable varieties they are planting in late summer for fall harvest on their vegetable farms.
Norm Lehne, of Roseburg, OR is near the ocean’s temperature moderating influence so he succession-plants sweet corn until the end of June, for harvest in mid-September. “We start cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli in our greenhouse the end of May to plant out around the 4th of July. At the end of July we plant turnips, a very big patch, planted thickly. We harvest by pulling the ones that size up, gradually thinning the patch, so that the patch has turnips ready for pulling over a long season.” Lehne will be doing the same with Detroit Dark Red beets, also seeded thickly, harvesting over a long period.
Three carefully chosen varieties of lettuce started in their greenhouse will be ready for planting in the field the end of July. Lehne likes the looseleaf variety Bergam’s Green, which is slow to bolt during variable weather conditions. His other two varieties are the strikingly beautiful, dark red romaine Red Marshall, and the frilly loose-leaf ‘Red Fire,’ which has excellent heat tolerance.
In central Oregon, Jim and Debbie Fields grow vegetables for their CSA, farmers markets and restaurants in a “harsh high desert climate” that can have frost any day of the year! Jim plants rutabagas and parsnips for fall harvest by the beginning of July. “In late fall, we cut off the tops and cover the roots, still in the ground, with at least 3 inches of straw, to dig as needed for winter sales,” he said.
Napoli is their favorite carrot variety for fall planting, popular with their customers for its crunchy sweetness. They make their last planting of carrots and beets for fall harvest by the first week of September. “We plant a variety of greens every week through the summer and into mid-September, including transplanted arugula, Elegance greens mix, and Oaky Red Splash, a high quality oak leaf originally produced by an accidental lettuce cross, sold by Wild Garden Seeds that is well adapted to fall growing in the area.”
Jon Strite works out the field plans for the vegetable crops at Strite’s Orchard near Harrisburg, PA. The Strites have long been known for their complex double cropping and even triple cropping to keep a steady supply of vegetables available for their farm market and CSA over the long season.
“We seed our fall turnips and red beets in early August,” explained Jon Strite. “We can start harvesting from these fields in October. If we see a hard frost coming, we use row covers. We can usually extend the harvest into December.”
For fall spinach, Strite seeds ‘Waitiki,’ which can take the early fall heat, every two weeks starting in mid-August. “Then we switch to planting ‘Ashley’ until early October. We used to use row covers on spinach in very cold weather, but found that the spinach leaves turned yellow and were unmarketable.” Now their last planting of spinach is seeded into one of the smaller high tunnels so they can harvest it into winter. “For our field-grown spinach, we pick until hard frost comes. Then we allow remaining plants to overwinter, resuming harvest in the spring,” he said.
Strites also make plantings of a wide variety of colors and types of cole crops, including ‘Graffiti’ purple cauliflower and ‘Avenger and ‘Expo’ broccoli, all good cold weather varieties, between July and mid-August. “We plant these into fields that had spring crops we plowed under,” Jon Strite continued. “We found it could be problematic getting plants established in the summer heat when using black plastic, so now we plant into beds formed without plastic, using drip tape.”
Greg Donaldson of northern New Jersey’s Donaldson Farms favors Dimitri Brussels sprouts started from transplants. “Dimitri resists serious disease problems we’ve had with other varieties. We are usually cutting Brussels sprouts into early December. For fall lettuce, we continue making plantings of Johnny’s Summer Crisp lettuce varieties, which we plant every 10 days through late spring and summer, into the fall. We seed broccoli every 10 days throughout the season until mid-July. Starting in early August we plant transplants,” said Donaldson.
Chad Wallace of Oaktree Organics in Ashland, IL said, “For fall carrots, we plant Nanette in July for early fall sales and in August we plant Interceptor, a cold-weather and storage carrot variety with sturdy tops that don’t break down under mulch.” Wallace has found that Bull’s Blood beets are good for fall growing both for the beets themselves and for their deep red tops, which are extremely cold-hardy and add color to salad mixes in late fall and winter.
“For late fall and winter kale, my customers prefer White Russian kale, for which I recently found a seed source. For lettuce, I count back about 40 days from the date I want to harvest, and plant leaf lettuce thicker than usual to use it as a cut-and-come-again green. One of my last lettuce plantings is Waldmann’s Dark Green,” said Wallace, advising, “Growers have to learn to tweak planting dates for their climate and the particular year to be sure of being able to harvest their last plantings.”
Joe Schwen, of Heartbeet Farm near Zumbro Falls, MN, concentrates heavily on planting for fall, late fall and winter sales at a farm market, restaurants, and co-ops. Schwen plants Bolero carrots in late summer for both their flavor and their keeping qualities. He said, “We dig the carrots in late fall, when the nights are in the teens. The cold makes the carrots sweet. People come to buy them week after week for the flavor.” Properly stored, Schwen’s Bolero carrots are still salable at the farmers market the next May, the epitome of the good keeper. Winter radishes like Round Black Spanish and Watermelon radishes are also planted in August and store well through much of the winter.
The Podoll family of Prairie Road Organic Farm and Seed in Fullerton, ND has found that Sweet Dakota Bliss beets are ideal for germination in hot soils and for growing under difficult conditions.
“We plant the main crop in mid-July,” explained Theresa Podoll, “We have planted them as late as the first part of August and still had nice-sized beets for eating. We’ve also used them as a cover crop, planted as late as Aug. 15, and were able to harvest some beautiful greens for eating and nice-sized beets for pickling, right from the cover-cropped field, as an added bonus.”
Second chances — planting for a fall harvest and storing for a late season
by Bill and Mary Weaver