Vegetable Gardening: Plant Twice in the Fall for Double the Harvest

If your area has fairly mild winters, take advantage by doing your fall planting twice -- you'll double your harvest and lower your food costs.

| June/July 1995

There are a great many reasons most folks don't even consider second cropping. It's my experience that preparing a garden for second crops can be nearly as time consuming an activity as preparing for the spring planting; therefore, it's often easier just to forget the whole thing. Additionally, many gardeners get discouraged with second cropping because so many of the varieties that do well earlier in the year just don't perform well in the heat of summer. As we'll discuss later, there are a great many varieties available now that weren't available even a decade ago. Many of those are more heat- and drought-resistant than older standbys so long favored by home gardeners, and promise a late-season harvest which will keep you in delicious produce all winter long. For example, I love a good buttery head of Bibb lettuce in August just as much as I do in May. Why not? Missing a chance to plant again is an opportunity squandered and grocery money wasted, and there are many ways to make the process much less of a chore.

I live in the highlands of eastern Kentucky, a region of generally mild winters but often hot and humid summers. Spring can start early here and frost can come late—though neither is a given. We usual don't have freezes after mid-April or bet'" mid-October. There are often light frosts after and before those dates, but rarely are frosts severe enough to destroy any but the most tender of crops.

Like most areas, we start here early with the cold hardy crops such as peas, lettuce, and onions. From there we progress to other hardy veggies such as beets and carrots. By that time it's soon warm enough to start your heat lovers such as beans and corn. It is at that point that second cropping can really be used advantageously. One point first: I find it easier to clean crops as I go. By that I mean as soon as one is finished, compost what's left or plow it in, know what you want to plant, and then be ready. Choose sites for crops and varieties accordingly. Some thrive in the shade, others need full sun, though in the summer some shade and a lot of watering might be required for those sun worshippers. I've done some pretty strange things to get crops out of season.

Planting Lettuce, Onions and Radishes

But what varieties to plant, you ask? Let's take a look at a typical season in a typical garden in mid-America Most of us will start, as mentioned before, in March with salad fixings such as lettuce, onions, and radishes. By all accords, most anyone can get lettuce to grow at that time of the year. I've long depended on Shepherd Seeds for lots of my salad makers. For about a hundred years, it seems, folks in my area have been growing Black Seeded Simpson, and a fine variety it is. It just doesn't do well in hot weather, bolting to seed rather easily.

Shepherd Seeds introduced me to some really delicious loose-leaf varieties, namely Lollo Rossa. To be honest, this Italian loose leaf is almost too pretty to eat. Almost. Eating quality is fleeting, though, so Lollo Rossa has to be planted at intervals of 10-14 days to maintain top quality. Bolt resistance is fair, and this Italian beauty can be grown well in the summer if some shade and ample moisture are provided.

Shepherd Seeds is always on of the prowl for new varieties, and lettuce is a specialty of theirs. For years, Salad Bowl has been one of the leading bolt-resistant varieties. While not nearly as popular as Black Seeded Simpson in our area, Salad Bowl—substantially more bolt-resistant than the Simpson types—has always been a special favorite of mine.

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