Dig In

Sowing for Fall Crops

By Patricia Bailey
Posted 8/30/18

I’ve been enjoying my own organic vegetables for much of the growing season and creating wonderful meals for my family. Several of my crops have gone by – lettuces, peas, kohlrabi, …

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Dig In

Sowing for Fall Crops


I’ve been enjoying my own organic vegetables for much of the growing season and creating wonderful meals for my family. Several of my crops have gone by – lettuces, peas, kohlrabi, spinach and some cabbages. As new space comes available I begin to think of — dare I say it — autumn.

With these dog days of summer it’s tough to think of the fall season, but when it comes to growing your own food, planning ahead is key. Now is the time to work on extending your vegetable garden so it continues to produce well into fall.

We are fortunate to have a long growing season in Rhode Island. Our average first fall frost date is approximately Oct. 19, which gives us plenty of time to sow new seeds. I tend to think of my spring and fall crops as the bookends of the growing season. We can begin and end with these “cool” crops, like arugula, beet, bush beans, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard greens, peas, radish, spinach, squash, swiss chard and turnips.

It is best to look for seed packets with days to harvest, or days to maturity between 30-70 days. This will ensure your plants will bear fruit before any chance of frost occurs. With our continued warm days and nights germination will happen quickly right in the garden beds. There is no need to start the seeds indoors.

Firstly, I like to replenish the soil and rebuild the nutrients with a few shovelfuls from my compost pile. If you have some leaf mold leftover turn that into the soil as well. You may even consider adding bone, fish and/or blood meal. Feeding your soil will ultimately feed you.
I strive to have a diversity of flavors on my plate. I like to compare the tastes of different varieties of the same vegetable and I’m open to reliable standards, old favorites and newcomers. If you have seeds leftover from your spring planting, consider swapping with your gardening friends and neighbors to try something new. Why not begin a conversation at your next dinner party or cookout. Is anyone else growing vegetables this garden season? What have you been growing from seed? Are you interested in seed sharing? You might soon discover that swapping your leftover ‘Mokum’ carrot seeds with someone’s ‘Kookaburra’ spinach seeds is exactly the sort of diversity you were seeking.
If you discovered that your family’s palate has become more adventurous or that you want to incorporate more micro greens into your diet, this may be a perfect time to sow seeds of Watercress, Claytonia, Pac Choi or Shungiku. You can sow these seeds every two weeks for a steady supply of salad mix.

Of course, you may also try your luck again at the snap peas that under- performed this Spring. I find they do better as the cooler weather approaches.

Continue creating more delicious good food in your own backyard and enjoy these heavenly days of summer!

Patricia Bailey is a Community Outreach Horticulturist. Having a deep appreciation for the quality of life a good garden can bring to those in need, she spearheads school programs, mentors young people and provides local charities with fresh organic vegetables. 

Patricia Bailey

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