The Kenwood Press
: 08/01/2017

Planting the fall vegetable garden

Steve Albert

August is the time to plan and plant the fall vegetable garden here in the Sonoma Valley. The fall garden will include those cool-weather crops - roots and leafy crops - that struggle in summer heat.

The key to planting vegetables for fall harvest is timing. Plant your autumn vegetable garden so that the crops reach maturity and harvest just before or within a week or two after the first frost in fall. On average the first fall frost here will come between Nov. 15 and Dec. 15.

To know when to plant each crop, know the number of days to maturity, then count backwards that number of days from when you plan to harvest to determine the planting date.

If a crop takes 90 days to reach maturity and you plant on Aug. 15, then you can expect to harvest on or about Nov. 15. The weather will be cool then and cool-weather crops will be very happy. Don't worry about the first frost or two; most cool-season crops can withstand a light frost - including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, chards, collards, kohlrabi, radishes, and even lettuce and spinach.

Here's a guide for the number of days from sowing to harvest for the most popular autumn harvest crops (these numbers may vary slightly by variety):

Beets: count back 74 days: 5 days to germination + 55 days to maturity + 14 days factoring for short days. Direct sow beets in the garden. Beets can survive a heavy frost.

Broccoli: count back 95 days: 5 days to germination + 21 days to transplant size +55 days to maturity + 14 days factoring for short days. Start broccoli indoors then transplant to the garden. Broccoli can withstand light but not heavy frost without protection.

Brussels sprouts: count back 120 days: 5 days to germination + 21 days to transplant size + 80 days to maturity + 14 days factoring for short days. Start Brussels sprouts indoors then transplant to the garden. Brussels sprouts can withstand light but not heavy frost without protection.

Cabbage: count back 99 days: 4 days to germination + 21 days to transplant size + 60 days to maturity + 14 days factoring for short days. Start cabbage indoors then transplant to the garden. Cabbage can withstand light but not heavy frost without protection.

Carrots: count back 85 days: 6 days to germination + 65 days to maturity + 14 days factoring for short days. Direct sow carrots. Carrots can withstand light but not heavy frost without protection.

Cauliflower: count back 90 days: 5 days to germination + 21 days to transplant size + 50 days to maturity + 14 days factoring for short days. Start cauliflower indoors then transplant to the garden. Cauliflower can survive heavy frost.

Chard: count back 69 days: 6 days to germination + 50 days to maturity +14 days factoring for short days. Direct seed chard. Chard can survive heavy frost.

Leaf Lettuce: count back 76 days: 3 days to germination + 14 days to reach transplant size + 45 to maturity + 14 days factoring for short days. Start lettuce indoors for best results then transplant to the garden. Lettuce can survive a light frost but not heavy frost without protection.

Peas: count back 70 days: 6 days to germination + 50 to maturity+ 14 days factoring for short days. Direct seed peas. Peas can survive heavy frost.

Spinach: count back 64 days: 5 days to germination + 45 days to maturity+ 14 days factoring for short days. Direct seed spinach. Spinach can withstand light but should be protected from heavy frost.