July 4, 2015

1 - It is time to start planting your fall garden in July.

Yard and Garden July 4, 2015

Q.

You wrote about this a few years ago and I have lost the copy I saved. I am sorry to have to ask again, but can you give information about starting a fall garden in the summer? What can I plant? When can I plant them? What is the latest that I can do this?

A.

This is a very relevant question for this time of year. Fall gardens have some benefits in that the monsoon rains help grow it, winds are often less in the fall, and in cool weather when you are harvesting the produce is often sweeter. Cool temperatures help the plants retain sugars in their tissues.

In July you still have time to plant many warm season crops that will not tolerate frost, and you can plant crops that will tolerate light frosts well into the autumn. Beans, corn, and squash are examples of those that you can plant from seeds in July and still expect a crop. If you can find transplants, you can plant tomatoes and chiles for a fall harvest. The key to planting warm season crops it to compare the "days to harvest" with the time remaining before your expected last frost. This information may be found on the seed label or sometimes on the label of the variety of tomatoes or chiles that you are purchasing as transplants. For much of New Mexico, you should have plenty of time to reach the harvest date and then some time after that for repeated harvests.

Another possibility for warm season crops is to plant them in large containers that you can bring indoors or into the garage or a shed to avoid the first autumn frosts. There is often an extended period of warmth following early frosts when the plants may be returned outdoors to continue producing. I often bring container grown chiles into a room with bright light so that I can continue harvesting jalapenos and other chiles into the winter. Some years the plants survive to be returned outside the next spring and produce again for another summer.

Plants such as cabbage, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts are called cool season crops because they grow well in cool weather and tolerate light frosts that help sweeten the crop. Mustard greens, kale, carrots, radishes, and turnips are others that fall into the category of cool season crops. If the monsoon develops to cool the summer heat, these can be planted in mid-summer for an extended fall harvest. In unusually cold weather comes early, a covering of straw or garden row cover fabric will often protect the plants sufficiently through that cold weather to allow them to grow well after warmth returns in the autumn and sometimes early winter.

Cold frame gardens are also useful for extending the fall garden season into the winter. Plants for cold frames can be planted in mid- to late summer. Some cold frames may even allow tomatoes and chiles to continue growing and bearing fruit well into winter. This of course depends on the nature of the cold frame, your location, and the conditions of a particular winter. Fresh vegetables from your home garden in the fall and winter are a real treat. Cool season crops and some herbs may even provide fresh harvests from a cold frame through the whole winter and into spring.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.

Links:

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at desertblooms@nmsu.edu, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook page.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!