Summer Vegetable Plantings for Fall Harvest

Gordon Johnson, Extension Vegetable & Fruit Specialist; gcjohn@udel.edu

Plantings for fall harvested vegetables are underway. Timing these plantings can be a challenge, especially where multiple harvests are needed. Plantings from mid-July through the end of August may be made, with cutoff dates depending on the crop, variety, and season extension methods such as row covers, low tunnels, and high tunnels.

These plantings can be divided into 2 groups: 1) warm season vegetables for harvest up to a killing frost and 2) cool season vegetables for extended harvest in the fall.

The three main factors influencing crop growth and performance in the fall are daylength, heat units, and frost or freeze events. A few days difference in planting date this time of year can make a big difference in days to maturity in the fall.

Warm season vegetables for fall harvest include snap beans, squash, and cucumbers. July plantings of sweet corn can also be successful to extend seasons for farm stands. Mid-July plantings of tomatoes and peppers also are made for late harvests, particularly in high tunnels.

Cool season vegetables for fall harvest include cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower; the cole crop greens, kale and collards; mustard and turnip greens; turnips for roots; spinach; beets; lettuce; leeks; green onions; and radishes.

To extend harvest in the fall, successive plantings are an option. However, days between plantings will need to be compressed. One day difference in early August planting for a crop like beans can mean a difference of several days in harvest date.

Another option to extend harvest in the fall is with planting different maturing varieties at the same time. This is particularly successful with crops such as broccoli and cabbage where maturity differences of more than 30 days can be found between varieties.

Another way to get later harvests is by use of row covers or protecting structures. This can allow for more heat accumulation and will aid with protection against frost and freezes. Decisions on what type or combination of covers/protection to use and when to apply the protection will influence fall vegetable maturation and duration of harvest.

A final factor for summer planting for fall production is on planting cutoff dates. For example, a crop such as cucumber may produce well with an August 2 planting but poorly with an August 8 planting; broccoli has a wider planting window than cauliflower; turnip greens have a wider planting window than kale.

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