Monthly Archives: September 2012

Fall Gardening: When to Plant

Part 1, Part 2

When to Plant

The general recommendation for planting a fall garden is to plant most vegetables starting in late July through mid-August. A few vegetables that need colder temperatures and grow quickly, such as lettuce, radishes, spinach, and turnips are generally planted from mid-August to mid-September. However, sometimes the summer weather does not recommend itself to those planting ranges.

Watching the Weather

When the weather in late July or early August is very hot and dry, it may be preferable to wait to plant many fall crops for a couple of weeks, even though that may delay harvest or result in smaller harvests. The heat can make it extremely difficult to germinate seeds successfully outdoors. It can also be a challenge to establish transplants at that time. It is important to watch the weather closely and be ready to plant as soon as there is a slight break in hot weather. Even if the daytime highs are still hot, when the overnight temperatures drop below 70 degrees, most fall vegetables will be able to survive.

Taking Risks for Late Plantings

If the weather is not favorable in the late summer, it is still possible to plant many fall vegetables later than the general recommendations. The success of these plantings depends on how long mild fall weather persists. Often we do not have consistently cold temperatures until mid-November, giving many vegetables extra time to mature if planted late. Row covers can also keep plants warmer to promote continued growth.

Staggering Plantings

Vegetables that mature quickly, such as radishes, lettuce, and other salad greens, can be planted multiple times over the course of 6+ weeks to provide harvests throughout the fall. Seeds planted in late August will grow quickly, while seeds planted in late September will typically be slower growing. To successfully stagger crops, you should plant 1 week apart in August and stretch that out to 2 weeks apart by late September. Using both transplanting and direct seeding will also help stagger your harvests of these vegetables.

For example:

Late July – Plant lettuce seeds indoors

Early August – Plant lettuce seeds indoors

Late August – Transplant first lettuce seedlings, plant lettuce seed directly in the garden

Early September – Transplant second lettuce seedlings, plant more lettuce seed directly in the garden

Late September – Harvest lettuce from first transplant group

Early October – Harvest lettuce from second transplant group

Mid- to Late October – Harvest lettuce from first and second direct seeding groups





Video Wednesday: How to Test Your Soil

As the garden is winding down for the fall, it is a great time to do a soil test to give you plenty of time to plan and make any corrections needed for next year.

Friday PhotoEssay

It is fun watching a lot of the flowers and other plants recover and look great now that the worst of the heat is gone. The fall plantings are also growing by leaps and bounds!

This ‘Hawaiian Blue Eyes’ Evolvulus is not a flower that I was familiar with, but it has generally looked good all summer. It is really looking spectacular right now. It is also a very pure blue color, which isn’t always that easy to find in the flower world.

I don’t know if it is the residual herbicide effects, the heat, spider mites, or a combination of all of the above, but the few tomatoes we are starting to get off our plants are pretty much the UGLIEST tomatoes I’ve ever seen. They don’t even look appetizing.

The swallowtail caterpillars are kind of experiencing feast-or-famine in the garden this year. For the past 2-3 years, we’ve had a huge clump of fennel in the herb area of the garden that has partially re-grown from the roots every year and partially reseeded. With the renovation, that is completely gone, so the few caterpillars I’ve seen have been taking turns on the little fennel and dill plants and the parsley plants. There just isn’t very much for them to eat this year in our garden!

We did harvest a whole bunch of the flower stalks from the Red Aztec Spinach. It is kind of funny how your perspective makes a difference. I have been thinking about it as primarily a vegetable and anxiously waiting for it to reach the right stage to harvest. At the same time, my coworkers and some of the Master Gardeners still associate it as a weed, since it looks a lot like Lambsquarter. They were getting really anxious that it was getting close to flowering and going to seed, resulting in tons of seedlings next year in this area. (Which is probably going to happen anyway.) I’m sure that in its native situation in Mexico, that reseeding habit is considered a great value for the plant and those growing it. It is just interesting how your perspective changes the way you deal with a plant!

The Thunbergia (Black-eyed Susan vine) has finally started blooming. Last time we planted it, it also waited until late summer/early fall to start blooming. Yet, I’ve seen it blooming earlier in other places. I wonder if it has some sensitivity to day length to initiate blooming? If so, can it be treated in a greenhouse so that it will bloom all summer?

We successfully babied the lettuce transplants through the initial transplanting and then the heat over the weekend! Almost all of them are looking great now, and have at least doubled in size, if not more. This is the ‘Panisse’ green oakleaf lettuce.

Have a great weekend!

Fall Gardening: Less Common Vegetables for Kansas

See Part 1 here.

Some vegetables are not commonly grown in Kansas gardens because our climate is a challenge for them. These vegetables will often thrive in a fall-planted garden, although the results may be variable.


Chicories, related to lettuces, include endive, escarole, Italian dandelion, and radicchio. These are vegetables that do the best in cool conditions and are quite cold hardy. Radicchio in particular has best color development and flavor as the weather gets colder. While we cannot always grow vegetables of the size you might see in the grocery store, you can grow a crop that is good to use in your kitchen. Chicories are best started indoors from seed in mid- to late July and then transplanted outdoors in late August or early September.

Bulbing Fennel

While the leafy types of fennel grow well in the spring and early summer, if you want to try growing the bulb-forming types of fennel, the fall is the best time to grow them. The longer, more consistently cool weather will allow for the production of a better quality bulb. Bulbing fennel planted in the spring may bolt (flower) before producing a good bulb. Bulbing fennel can be started indoors and transplanted or direct seeded.

Fall or Winter Radishes

The small, spicy spring radishes are well known to Kansas gardeners, but the larger fall radishes are much less common. Many of these radishes are Chinese or Oriental radishes, such as the daikon. Other varieties include Watermelon radishes (aka Red Meat or Mantanghong varieties), Black Spanish Round radishes, and a variety of other Chinese specialty radishes. These radishes are usually large – the size of a baseball for the round types or larger than most carrots for the daikons.

Fall radishes are typically sweeter and less spicy that the spring radishes, and are often used in cooked dishes rather than just salads. Fall radishes will also store longer under similar storage conditions to turnips, carrots, and potatoes in a root cellar.

Bok Choy

Bok Choy is an Asian green that is becoming common in grocery stores. It has crunchy, stems similar to celery and dark green leaves. This vegetable is frequently found in Asian stir fries and can be used much like celery in many dishes. Bok choy grown in the spring will often become strong flavored, even bitter quickly. It will also flower before a good quality rosette of leaves has developed. While fall grown bok choy may also bolt in a warm spell, the quality of the vegetable is much better than in the spring, in most years.


Like onions, leeks can be planted again in the fall. Leeks should be started indoors and then transplanted in the fall to provide a longer growing season. Fall planted leeks may not be as large as leeks planted in the early spring, but they are very cold hardy and can be harvested well into the winter. Some types of leeks will also overwinter successfully in southern Kansas, allowing for continued growth in the spring.

Video Wednesday: Composting

As you clean up your gardens this fall, here are things that you can add to your compost pile or bin.