University of Illinois Extension Horticulture
Educator, Kelly Allsup, says "fall provides some of the most
productive gardening of the year when vegetables are planted in late
summer and mature in the cool temperatures of fall. At this time of
year, think root crops, brassica transplants, and leafy greens."
Lower temperatures cause a release of sugars in fall-grown plants,
giving most crops a sweeter or milder flavor. "You get better
tasting produce, and there is less weeding and less watering."
Plant carrots at the end of July into early August. Plants seeds ½
inch deep and thin plants to about half an inch apart. "Thinned
greens can be made into a carrot-inspired pesto or added to a
salad," says Allsup. About three to four weeks after planting, cover
carrot tops with added soil to prevent sunburn or green tops.
Harvest Carrots when they are about half-inch to one inch in
diameter. Baby carrots take about 50 days and full-size carrots may
take up to 80 days. Carrots can even benefit from a light frost,
making them sweeter than ones matured in the summer heat. They also
can be left in the ground until a killing frost and can be insulated
Beets can also be planted through late July and early August. Soak
seeds at least 24 hours before planting or pre-sprout in a moist
paper towel. Beet greens can be harvested as you are waiting for the
roots to develop.
"Taking about a third of
the plant tops to add to your salad or your eggs in the morning will
not affect your future harvest," says Kelly. Harvest beets when they
reach 1 ½ to 2 inches in diameter and thin seedlings to two inches
Radish is the fastest fall crop, ready to harvest in about a month,
and can be planted until the end of August. Plant seed half-inch
deep and thin sprouts to two to four inches apart.
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Along with the previous, brassica transplants like
broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage can be planted before the end of
July into August as well. However, these plants can be hard to
source in garden centers as they do not have a market for fall
gardening. Other brassicas that can be started from seed are
Kohlrabi, turnips, and rutabaga. Rutabaga takes the longest and seed
should be sown in late July. Kohlrabi can be planted through
mid-August, and turnips can be planted as late as the end of August.
Rutabaga is sweeter than turnips. Kohlrabi is reminiscent of
broccoli stems. Turnips should be thinned to two inches, and
Kohlrabi and rutabaga should be thinned to five to six inches.
Leafy greens can be grown in full to partial shade and grown as a
mix for a baby green salad all the way into the beginning of
September. A mix of extra seeds from fall may include kale, swiss
chard, mustard, lettuce, bok choi, collards, arugula, endive,
watercress, and even beets. Harvest leaves when they are less than
three inches tall for the best taste. Larger greens are best when
cooked. Greens thrive in soil high in organic matter and are
consistently moist. Plant that mix of leftover seeds every week
until September for salad greens throughout the fall months.
Try vegetable gardening in the fall, and you just may forgo the
early spring race to get seeds and plants in the ground.
[Kelly Allsup, Horticulture Educator,
University of Illinois Extension]