By the time August ends, your vegetable garden likely has a number of bare spots. This is a good thing, indeed, and a sign that the bounty of a successful harvest has enriched your dinner table and replenished your cupboards and freezer for the coming months.
Now what? Believe it or not, it isn’t necessary to let those bare patches go unused until spring planting time rolls around. In most climates, it’s possible to grow a second garden by planting another round of vegetable seeds – even in late August and early September.
Many vegetables are even sweeter when the temperatures drop a bit.
This is a good time to try a few new, unique vegetables that you’ve never tried before. Look for varieties with the shortest growing season, or those specifically labeled for late-season growing.
August can be the hottest month in many climates, so while you’re enjoying a good book and a glass of ice cold lemonade, don’t ignore the need to pour on a bit of extra water.
One final tip before selecting seeds for your late garden: Keep insulated fabric or a few sheets of newspaper on hand – just in case.
Here are a few ideas for planting seeds in late August or early September:
1. Beet greens. These are nutritious, delicious and ready for picking as soon as two to three weeks.
2. Watercress. It has a crispy, pungent, slightly peppery flavor that adds interest to sandwich, salads or pizza. Plant watercress through August and harvest until late autumn.
3. Kale shoots. These are ready very quickly, and you can toss a handful of the tender shoots in smoothies or salads for a blast of vitamins and minerals. Soak the seeds overnight before planting, and then plant them in full sunlight.
4. Pak choi. Plant pak choi in a sunny garden spot by the end of August. The seeds germinate in six to 10 days, and you can harvest baby pak choi leaves as soon as 30 days. Use this flavorful Asian vegetable in salads or stir fries.
5. Radishes. Fast-growing radishes are tangy, crispy and perfect for planting small patches throughout August and September — four to six weeks before the last frost.
6. Turnips. Small turnips are ready in about 45 days, but turnip greens are perfect for picking much sooner. The crispy greens are even sweeter when nighttime temperatures drop into the 40s, and you can grow turnips until the first hard freeze – maybe even longer with a little protection.
7. Tatsoi. An attractive plant with rosettes of spoon-shaped leaves, tatsoi is ready to harvest in 20 to 25 days, although full-size tatsoi takes a bit longer. This mustard cousin can tolerate light frost, which actually improves the flavor. Plant tatsoi in partial shade, or in full sunlight if the days are cool.
8. Arugula. This one bolts quickly in hot weather, but if you have a cool, shady spot you can harvest this spicy green vegetable in three to four weeks. Arugula, also known as rocket, tolerates light frost. Cook this fast grower like spinach or add it to salads.
9. Mustard greens. Plant mustard greens four to six weeks ahead of the first expected frost, and start picking the tender little leaves in about a month. Mustard greens prefer full sun and moist, rich soil.
10. Collard greens. These are related to kale, and each is an absolute nutritional powerhouse. Plant collards about 10 weeks before frost and harvest the leaves as soon as they’re big enough to use, or wait and let them develop. This cold-hardy plant can survive temperatures in the upper teens. In mild climates you can harvest collards all winter.
11. Mizuna. Plant mizuna in full sun or partial shade six to 12 weeks before the last frost, and then use the mild-flavored, fern-like leaves in stir fries and salads. A member of the cabbage family, mizuna tolerates a bit of frost.