Summer is in full swing and it has me thinking about all the tasty fall crops I can still sow and harvest in the two months before a frost is likely in my area. So if you are also right up against the two-month mark and also want to squeeze in just a little more gardening, I suggest trying frost-tolerant crops (also called "cool season"). Several of the frost-tolerant crops I grow are even more enjoyable in late summer because cool temperatures of fall will sweeten my leafy greens (kale is particularly improved by a kiss of fall frost), and I can worry less about pests and bolting. But you may notice that these crops seem to take longer-and you're correct! Late summer/early fall crops may take a couple of more weeks to reach maturity than usual as hours of daylight shorten and temperatures cool.
Try 10 of my favorite varieties to sow in late summer. They will not disappoint!
- Arugula sown in late summer/fall provides a mellower flavor, and attracts flea beetles less than spring-sown crops.
- Beets are silky, earthy, and delicious. We love them roasted, pickled, or raw.
- Broccoli Raab is so fast, and what a delicacy! You can cut it 2–3 times and keep enjoying the delicate, slightly spicy flavor for weeks.
- Collards are heat tolerant and survive to 20°F, which lends to my love of this productive, heirloom green.
- Kale just keeps on going past first frost, getting sweeter, and adding depths to soups, and diversity to fall salads.'Dwarf Blue Curled' and 'Redbor' are exceptionally cold tolerant and the latter's purple color intensifies after frost. 'Lacinato Dinosaur' is my favorite!
- Kohlrabi has the crunch of an apple and is mildly sweet with a touch of a mild radish flavor. I love it raw with a sprinkle of salt.
- Lettuce is a staple in my garden all summer long, and I love to grow a bunch of different varieties, but always the 'Marvel of Four Seasons' that glows cranberry red as the days shorten, and 'Little Gem' that forms a perfect, small romaine head. Both are very heat and frost tolerant.
- Peas are for fall, too! 'Oregon Sugar Pod II' is my favorite pea for fall because it is not only delicious, but also mildew resistant, an issue I often battle in the late summer.
- Radishes are always welcome in our kitchen, and late summer is the time to sow winter radishes because they only form during shortening days. I grow daikon (If you've never tried daikon you are missing out! It is easy, great for the soil, and delicious.); black radishes; and the stunning, scarlet centered, watermelon radish. When you remove (and eat) the greens these radishes store for a month or more in the crisper.
- Spinach is also sweetened with cooling temperatures and can over-winter, even in my climate (USDA zone 5B). I like to sow some every couple of weeks, so I have plenty of fresh spinach on hand; any extra I quickly blanch and freeze, and the last succession will overwinter giving me early spring greens.
There's more to grow, too! Check out other quick crops like cucumbers, mustards, summer squash, and turnips. Get the full list and read more about our most frost-tolerant crops and crops that can survive in winter (with a little help). Well, those garden beds aren't going to prep themselves; I better get sowing!