The time to start planting your fall garden is *checks calendar* now The Denver Post

Tomatoes are just starting to ripen on the vine, and it is already planting time again. In this heat? Yes!

Look at it this way: If your garden crops crashed for any reason earlier in the season, now’s your time for a do-over. Bring on the third season of planting to take us through the entire growing season as we greet fall.

A quick review:

Generally, early spring (March-April) to the middle of May is the first planting season — cool crops (lettuce, broccoli, beets, etc.) — followed by warm-season crops (tomatoes, peppers, corn, squash) from mid-May to early summer.

The third, or fall, season includes both warm- and cool-season vegetables plus herbs and begins in July through early September. Timing all depends on crop maturity before the first fall frost. (The first fall frost seems unimaginable in this heat, but it’s right around the corner.)

Mid-October is generally used as the first frost or freeze date, so focus on crops that will mature in about 60 days or less to be on the safe side. Seed packets list days to harvest.

Also, check the chart below for mostly cool-season plants that can be directly seeded and transplanted now through August and into early September. Many cool crops can take light frosts as they grow through the fall season.

Tuck in seeds wherever there is room in the vegetable area. Try the shady side of taller crops like tomatoes or corn. If there’s no open real estate, look for empty spots in the landscape as long as the sun is adequate. Leafy crops can take less sun, even some dappled shade. If the area was growing crops prior, mix in some all-purpose dry fertilizer in the soil before planting.

Container gardeners who wish to seed or plant for the third season may have to shop, borrow or re-purpose additional pots since current containers may already be occupied with growing vegetables and herbs.

Keep in mind that garden centers have many vegetable and herb plant starts available for sale if you want to skip direct seeding. The advantage is the plants are well on their way in growth, giving you a few weeks’ head start. Shop early for seeds and plants; it has been a busy gardening season for stores.

Cool-season vegetables and herbs that can be seeded right now include beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, cilantro, Swiss chard, collards, bunching onions, parsley and peas.

Warm-season vegetables and herbs that can still be seeded right now include basil, bush beans, slicing cucumber, New Zealand spinach, summer squash. Look for 50-60 day maturity varieties.

When it begins to cool down (nights in the 50s, days in the 80s), direct-seed lettuce, spinach, arugula and radishes. These are the shortest maturing vegetables and herbs. Many can be direct-seeded as late as mid-September, especially if you are using coverings to extend the season.

More resources:

  • For tips on fall planting
  • For information on seeding fall vegetables
  • For data on vegetable gardening in the mountains

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