If you’re hoping to get a healthy harvest in September or October, the best time to plant is the height of summer.
That means it’s time to start planning your next growing season!
As you’re preparing to plant the best seeds for fall harvest, here are seven tips to help you start off on the right foot.
1. Harvest your spring and summer crops.
Start off by harvesting your current garden to make room for new crops. In July and August, you’ll be pulling the last of the harvest from the plants you started in early spring. Summer is a delicious season for garlic, onions, carrots, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli. If these plants are finishing up in your Garden Tower 2, make sure to remove or cut up the root systems so new seedlings have plenty of room to grow. (Pro tip: Summer is also a good time to check on the worms in the built-in composting system, or empty your compost drawer if it’s the first time you’ve done so all year.)
2. Plan for a harvest in September or October.
Before you plant your seeds, identify the general timeline you want to get out of your garden. Most veggies that are in-season in the fall should be harvested in September and October. (Depending on your climate, you might get lucky enough to squeeze in a final harvest in the first week of November.)
3. Study up on fall plants’ growing habits.
One convenient thing about the vegetable varietals we have on hand today is that we can know with reasonable certainty how long each will take to grow to full maturity. If you’ve already ordered your seeds, check for this measurement by finding “days to maturity” on the package. This will help you plan for the best time to plant. For a fall harvest, you’re probably looking at planting your seeds in July.
4. Know your region’s average first frost date.
Like spring crops, your region’s frost dates are a critical component of planning for fall harvests. Your plants need enough time to come to full maturity BEFORE your region’s first frost date. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as having a garden full of not-quite-harvestable produce fall prey to an early cold snap. Make sure you’re planting your fall crops with enough time to grow to maturity at least a week before your first frost date.
5. Start seeds indoors.
Depending on the region you live in, weather during the height of summer might be too fierce to let healthy seedlings grow. Instead, start your seeds indoors to have more control over your growing conditions. Be sure to plan for the hardening off process (when you transition seedlings from indoor growth to outdoor conditions), which can take 7 to 10 days. For more information on starting seedlings, check out our Seed Starting Guide here.
6. Stock up on herbs and hardy veggies.
The fall harvest is a great time for herbs and veggies that can put up with unpredictable weather. Herbs like basil and cilantro are always a good choice, because they can take a beating from hot summer weather and still reach maturity by early fall. Other choices like garlic can “winter over” (meaning, survive in the ground through the coldest parts of the year) and be harvested the following summer.
This chart from the University of Minnesota Extension is a great starting place to decide on your midsummer planting. Greens like collards, mustard greens, chard, and kohlrabi all perform well in the Garden Tower 2, and make for excellent fall salads.
7. Keep an eye on the weather.
So–you’ve planned your fall produce, you’ve started your seeds indoors, and you’ve got your mind set on a transplanting date for your seedlings. Now, all there is to it is making sure your vegetables survive their growing season. The height of summer is usually the hottest part of the year, which can be punishing on certain varietals that need lots of water and decent drainage. Keep an eye on your weather reports so you know of any upcoming heat waves or cold snaps. In early fall, when an unexpected frost can threaten your September crop, pay close attention to weather reports and make sure to insulate your Tower if the temperature is going to drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit overnight. You can help your Tower make it through cold weather by moving it indoors, moving it up against a warm wall of the house, or covering it with a clear trash bag or other form of insulation.
By starting your planning in the summer, you can prepare for a delicious fall harvest!