The sad fact is that the further north you go, the less there is you can do with an outdoor garden after about mid-September.
That doesn’t mean you’re totally lost, though. Start by checking with the local weather service or county extension to determine when the first frost is expected in your area. Knowing that, you can count backwards by the average required growing time for different autumn plants to determine how early you’ll need to plant in order to beat the cold snap.
With diligent care and proper timing, you may still be able to grow some of the heartier vegetables in your region. The stand-outs, of course, are cole crops and leafy greens. Lettuce is comparatively delicate, but some varieties make up for it by producing edible leaves practically overnight. Meanwhile, hardier greens like kale, spinach and Swiss chard can stand up to a light frost. Tending to the soil temperature in your garden can ensure a better environment for root vegetables like carrots, radishes, and turnips. Beets, in particular, can withstand temperatures close to freezing, making them good choices for late-season planting.
“If you wish to push the envelope with planting,” says Crystal, our Muddy Boot reporter in New York state, “you can plant kale, chard, carrot, beets, and spinach in your bed as long as you watch for cooler temps and cover it at night. I would suggest making a winter garden that you can cover throughout the season such as a cold frame.” We think that’s a great idea, and we’ll be looking at more ways extend the growing season in our Stretch Gardening series.
Don’t live in the North? Go here to find the right page for your region.