Although we're smack dab in the middle of the growing season with warm-weather lovers such as peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini overflowing from your garden, it's time to think about your fall crops. Mid- to late-July and early August — or even later in some parts of the country — are ideal times to plant veggies for fall picking. "Some of the best vegetables are ready when the weather turns cooler," says Edward C. Smith, author of The Vegetable Gardener's Bible and Incredible Vegetables from Self-watering Containers. "Certain crops not only survive cold weather, they actually thrive in it and taste sweeter because of the production of sugars which help prevent them from freezing."
While you can look for transplants at garden centers for some of these plants, many can be direct-seeded right into the ground. "Get these plants established before cold weather," says Colin McCrate, owner and founder of Seattle Urban Farm Company and author of Food Grown Right, in Your Backyard and High-Yield Vegetable Gardening. "You want them to put in a root system and size up so they'll tolerate cooler temperatures and fewer hours of daylight as we move into autumn."
To help your fall crops flourish, add compost to your beds before planting, especially if you had a previous crop in the same place this season. Spread organic mulch to preserve moisture and keep the soil temperature cooler, which many of these plants prefer. Water any seeded crop regularly until it germinates, and don't let baby seedlings get scorched. "If seedlings dry out, they're toast," says McCrate.
Here are some of the best edibles to plant right now for autumn bounty:
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