Plant in Summer for Fall Munching
There's an art to the timing of vegetable planting, whether in a window box, pots, or a plot in the back forty.
But don't despair if you missed the Northern Hemisphere spring-planting window. You can sow seeds now for produce that can be savored in autumn and even into early winter.
In fact, for American gardeners in the Southeast and Southwest, where summers are hot and winters mild, most crops fare better if started late in the season.
Seed catalogs are increasingly providing seeds that are adapted to the shorter days, cooler temperatures, and higher rainfall of autumn.
Shepherd Ogden, founder of The Cook's Garden, a mail-order seed company based in Londonderry, Vt., explains that late-season is different from early-spring gardening. In springtime, the weather begins cold and often rainy, and gradually moves to the hotter temperatures of summer. In autumn, it's the reverse.
The vegetables best suited to late-season gardening fit into two groups: greens and roots. The first group includes unusual varieties of mild and sharp-tasting greens that are too fragile to be grown commercially, so you won't find many of them in the produce section of your local grocery.
Because greens work well in containers, they can be grown in limited space. These include leaf lettuces, mustard greens, spinach, curly endive (or frise), Swiss chard, corn salad (mche), curly cress, and tat-soi (an Asian green often used in stir-fry). Roots vegetables include carrots, beets, parsnips, radishes, kohlrabi, and turnips.
Plants to avoid, according to Mr. Ogden, are tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, whose flowers become sterile above 80 degrees F., and will not set fruit.
To make the most of late summer vegetable gardening, Ogden offers these tips: