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Fall gardening may offer tasty harvest

Farm and Garden: What can be planted as late as August and still make a crop in your fall garden?

July 1, 2024

3 Min Read
Vegetable Market
FALL HARVEST: Greens and vegetables that can be harvested in baby stage can be planted as late as August in Nebraska and still produce a fall crop. Farm Progress

by Ian Peterson

What is involved in developing a fall garden? At some point, it seems like the irony always ends up settling in: In the dead of winter, we can’t wait for it to be warmer, and in the dying heat of summer, we can’t wait for it to cool down.

The peak of the dog days of summer always brings thoughts of fall — cool breezes and changing leaves. There should be one more thing on that list: fall gardening. Timed just right, we can grow many of the same foods as we did in spring with a just as bountiful, and some say tastier, harvest. 

Fair warning: There is math involved. But by the end of your first fall gardening endeavor, I’m sure you will agree that it was worth it. So much for “I’ll never use this.”

Get started

The first step is to gather all of your cool-season crops. We’re talking greens, carrots, peas, cucumbers, beets, broccoli and even bunching onions. And when I say greens, I don’t just mean lettuce. This year, try some Swiss chard, kale, tatsoi or arugula for kicks. 

To figure out when to seed, find the days to harvest for your crop. You will also need your area’s average first frost date. 

The general formula goes: (days to harvest) + (about 14 days for harvest period) + (14 days “fall factor”) = days counted back from average first frost. 

Related:Tips for watering your garden, fruit trees

So, for example, your broccoli takes 60 days: (60) + (14) + (14) = 88 days. Let’s use Oct. 1 as the first frost. That makes July 5 the date to plan to get broccoli seeds in the ground. Of course, broccoli can handle a freeze. If you want to grow something such as beans or cucumbers, you need to factor in another 14 days because they are frost tender. 

Pretty much anything that is considered “greens” can be planted as late as August, especially if it is harvested at the baby stage — like carrots, kale and broccoli, which can all handle temperatures down to 20 degrees F. Bunching onions and radishes, for instance, can handle a light frost.

Get it ready

Clear the soil among some other garden plants to get the seeds going in as cool of a spot as possible for midsummer temperatures. You can clear a whole area if needed — a good practice is to cut the plants, leaving the roots to break down and either compost or dispose of the plant. Tilling increases compaction and opens up for weeds.

Sow seeds according to the packet; keep moist and weeded; consider mulching; and thin new plants according to the packet instructions. 

If your very first go at this doesn’t work out how you thought, don’t give up. It takes time to learn strategies for your own garden when you are trying something new. Hopefully, this helps inspire you to keep your garden growing late into the season for years to come.

Find more information at

Peterson is an assistant Nebraska Extension educator based in Fremont.

Please email your farmstead landscaping, turf, forestry or gardening questions to [email protected].

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