Get a jump on enjoying fresh grown vegetables with plants that thrive in early spring. In fall, why let the fun stop when you can harvest scrumptious, healthy vegetables up until frost and even beyond frost. Many vegetables prefer cool weather, and some even get tastier after a frost.
Vegetables for early spring and fall harvesting include:
Arugula, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Carrot, Celery, Collards, Green beans, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Mustard Greens, Peas, Radish, Rutabaga, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Turnip Greens
Most vegetables need plenty of sun to produce a bountiful harvest. Your vegetable garden should be located in a site that receives full sun. Ideally, your plants should receive at least 6-8 hours of sun a day. Too much shade will result in spindly plants with few vegetables.
Water should be readily available for your vegetable garden. If Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, you’ll want to get your hands on a hose often and easily.
For a great harvest you’ll want to give your veggies a healthy, nourishing home. It all starts with the soil. In the St. Louis area most of us are dealing with clay soil. Although loaded with nutrients, it is too dense for roots to easily grow. Adding compost, manure, or other organic matter will loosen the soil, allowing the roots to thrive. You’ll want to add enough organic matter to get your soil to a chocolate cake-like consistency: your soil should stay together if squeezed, but crumble when disturbed. Ideally, you should be able to plant your vegetables with your hand, not that you would want to.
Compost, manure, or other organic matter should be added every year. We like Cotton Bur Compost, it is lightweight and easy to use. It also can be used as a mulch, enriching your soil as it holds in water and helps keep weeds out.
Vegetables can also be grown in containers. Plant in a good, well draining potting soil.
Seed Or Starts?
Start your cool weather vegetables from seed or purchase starts from a nursery. Plants that germinate easily and mature quickly can be directly sown in the garden, they include arugula, spinach, and various types of lettuce. Others like broccoli, cabbage, kale and collards are better started from transplants. These plants can be started from seeds grown in small containers or can be purchased from nurseries.
To determine the date you will need to start your seeds, look at the back of your seed packet. It will give you the number of days from the time you sow your seeds until harvest. You may want to first select a harvest date, for fall possibly around the middle of September, and back up from there. The first frost in the St. Louis area usually occurs around October 15. You’ll want to harvest any frost sensitive vegetables before the first frost.
Some cool weather vegetables are frost tolerant and actually taste better after a frost. Members of the cabbage family grow well in cooler temperatures and are frost-tolerant. This family includes cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, radishes, kale, chard, and brussels sprouts. Brussel sprouts and kale react to frost by producing sugars, which make these vegetables deliciously sweet. Leeks, beets, rutabaga, carrots, and parsnips also sweeten up after a frost.
Vegetables are hungry eaters and many benefit from an application of fertilizer. You’ll want to apply a fertilizer that contains these three elements: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. For a safe, organic fertilizer we recommend Garden-Tone, or Starter Plus Bio-Tone. Carefully formulated for outstanding results, they contain Bio-tone, a blend of beneficial microbes. Bio-tone biologically enhances this natural plant food to ensure superior plant growth. These fertilizers are granular that you will sprinkle in your soil. Always follow package directions.
An additional application of liquid fertilizer when planting will get your baby veggies off to a booming start, encouraging early growth. We use Miracle-Gro.
Vegetables gardens can strip the soil of fertility and should have a maintenance fertilizer applied every year.
Planting and Care
If you plant in late summer you will want to keep your newly planted veggies’ roots cool and moist until the weather cools down. Plant your vegetables in the shade of summer vegetables, other plants, or shade with shade cloth. Once the transplants are taking off and the weather cools, the shade cloth can be pulled. Mulching will also protect your plants’ roots from the last hot days of summer. Mulch around the plants with compost, a thin layer of grass clippings, leaf mold or straw.
Keep your vegetable plants well watered, giving them 1-2″ of water per week. The hotter the weather, the more water the vegetables need. For best results water deeply which encourages the roots to grow deep. Frequent, shallow watering results in roots growing only at the surface of the soil, allowing the plants to dry out easily.