October is a usually a great month in my garden. By now, most (but not all) of my summer crops have been replaced by fall-and-winter crops, and I am looking forward to some new vegetables.
Summer crops still in the October garden
Your garden may have a lot more summer vegetables still in production, but in my own small garden there are still plenty of peppers. I did pull up a couple of pepper plants, to make room for autumn greens, but the remaining plants are still producing MANY peppers.
The tomato plant that I put into the garden as a seed in the last week of June is covered in green tomatoes, and those should begin ripening soon. That variety is called ‘Winterkeeper’, and I chose it for the long shelf-life of the tomatoes more than for spectacular flavor.
Also in the garden, still productive, is Swiss chard, which is looking better after I removed the caterpillars that had been eating the leaves. We are also still bringing in parsley, to add to salads and soups, and the green onions that have re-grown from top-set bulbs; these are also called winter onions, tree onions, and walking onions.
I didn’t plant the purslane and Jewels of Opar, but they reseed all over the garden, and those plants are providing leaves for us to eat, too.
In addition, my winter-time tea plans are coming along nicely, as the roselle keeps making the main ingredient, the red calyxes that cover the seed pods, for hibiscus-based teas.
I can’t say that any of these late-season summer crops, other than the peppers, are providing wildly abundant amounts of food, but I do enjoy it all.
Fall and winter crops coming along
My notes tell me that I was supposed to plant most of my carrots, escaroles, and radicchios around the 16th and 23rd of August, but that they didn’t actually get planted until August 26th. Considering that they are only five weeks old, I think the plants look great.
I planted more of those on September 2nd and 3rd, along with beets, kale, and watermelon radishes. I started planting salad radishes – many kinds – in gaps between the emerging leafy-greens very soon afterward.
Lettuces, a couple of turnips (trying a new variety), and two tiny cabbage plants went into the garden on those early September days, too, and seeds for black Spanish and more watermelon radishes on September 6th.
The very last greens to go into the garden — just last week — have been spinach and cilantro, because those are so sensitive to heat.
I also planted another small patch of beets that will probably not reach mature size until early spring, since the seeds went into the garden so late.
If you want to plant fall crops now
In my area, north of Atlanta, the first frost date is usually around November 1st. This means that planting time for fall and winter crops is almost over for nearby gardens. However, there are some exceptions.
Onion family crops
These might not be considered fall crops, since most of them won’t be ready for harvest until next June. However, October is the time to plant garlic, shallots, and multiplying onions.
Fast-growing salad radishes
There is enough time for many kinds of salad radishes, most of which can reach harvest-size in about a month. If we get actual cool weather soon, the radishes may need an extra week or two to reach that harvest-size, but you should be able to harvest them this fall.
Very cold-hardy crops
Spinach is the most cold-hardy crop I grow. Some varieties can reach mature size in 45-to-50 days. This is a good crop to plant, if you are late getting the fall garden started.
Collard greens are another option for late-planted fall gardens. Also, some lettuce varieties, such as ‘Marvel of four seasons’, are fairly cold hardy and can reach mature size in the same time-frame as spinach. If all goes well, seeds of these planted now might reach eating-size by December.
Small plants, instead of seeds
Most local garden centers still have plants/transplants of fall vegetables on their shelves. Some of these plants may do well, and others may not.
I visited two local garden centers yesterday, and at one of them all the collard greens had bolted — the central stem was growing tall, and leaves were forming very high on the stem. These elongating plants will not produce well in a garden, even if we get a miracle of cool weather tomorrow.
At the same garden center, most of the cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts plants looked healthy, and so did the cauliflower. Some of those might be worth trying, but they may need protection if we get an extreme cold snap early in winter.
Thinking about our crazy-hot September, an early extreme cold snap seems unlikely, but we may be at a point in time when improbable weather is the most likely of all.