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After the beans and cukes have played out, a second cool weather planting of spinach or lettuce can extend the harvest season. Photo: <a href="">Lea LSF</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
After the beans and cukes have played out, a second cool weather planting of spinach or lettuce can extend the harvest season. Photo: Lea LSF, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Extending the growing season: transitioning to cool weather crops

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This is the time of year when warm weather and cool weather begin to overlap. Transition time in the vegetable garden. Have you picked all the green beans? Pickled your cukes? Todd Moe talks with horticulturist Amy Ivy about what to do with empty spaces in the garden. It's time to think about planting again -- with cool-season vegetables in mind.

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Reported by

Todd Moe
Morning Host and Producer

What do you do when the cucumbers or beans are done for the season?

Once the plant has sort of faded away, yank them out. Pull them out of the garden completely. Beans especially have a short season. So it’s normal for you to get the harvest and have these plants that are finished. Also, once the cilantro goes to seed you should pull them out before they become bitter. Once it goes to seed the crop starts to lose its sweet flavor.

There’s still time to plant cool weather crops. One of the challenges most years is to get the plants going for the cool season. The home gardener has to plant the crops in August when usually it’s still really hot. But we’re really lucky that we have this spell of much more temperate weather. It’s going to be easier to get these cool crops started in the warmth of August so they can really flourish throughout the fall.

What cool-weather veggies should I plant for the fall season? 

Lettuce- Lettuce is more tolerant of temperature ranges so you could get it started now without too much trouble at all.

Spinach- Does not sprout well in warm soil. So that’s probably one of the hardest ones to get going in August. So keeping the soil damp will help a lot because the wet soil is cooler. Also, temporary shade will help keep the soil cooler.

Carrots- It’s a little late for carrots, but some shorter season carrots are a possibility.

Hakurei turnip- Hakurei turnips are like a sweet radish. It’s perfectly white and round, and you may have time to get that in as a special salad edition. Beet greens, I don’t know if you’ll get much of beet root to develop, but you should have luck with the greens.

It’s fun to experiment with onions, carrots, and lettuce in the fall and see if they pop up in the spring.

What if you don’t want to plant anything extravagant this fall?

Either you can plant more and get ready for a fall crop, or with good conscience you can cover the ground and rest easy until next spring.

This is a really great chance to build up your soil for next year. Covering the soil with chopped up leaves, grass clippings, or anything that can decompose will keep the soil protected and healthy for next spring. As these decompose, you will add some organic matter to your soil. You’ll also keep weeds from sprouting.

Also, catching up on controlling your weeds is always time well spent.

Right now, you won’t have time to get buckwheat to go very far.

Crimson clover is one that should die over the winter so you’ll want it to pull it up in the spring but in the fall it adds a lot to the winter. You could do winter rye, but it can be challenging to incorporate in the spring time.

For most home gardeners you may have the best luck with oats because they die over the winter and you don’t have such a challenge in the spring time. At this time, oats would be a good choice.


Amy Ivy is horticulturalist with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton and Essex Counties.

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