When to Carry Over Summer Vegetables to Fall
Ready for Fall Tomatoes
Never Destroy Healthy Garden Plants
During August and September, gardeners begin to plant vegetables that are better suited for the cooler weather of fall. That usually means members of the hearty cole family--broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale and kohlrabi. To create space for these fall vegetables, many gardeners remove their summer plants.
By late summer, the typical crops of the season--such as green beans, cucumbers and squash--usually have become dried up, infested, diseased and nonproductive. Purging the garden of these unsightly remains to make way for the fresh crops of fall is utterly appropriate and highly recommended. Indeed, a cardinal rule of gardening is never waste precious resources--space, sunlight, water, nutrients, time, effort, etc.--on morbid crops. Instead, remove and replace them as soon as possible.
However, many summer crops, such as tomatoes and peppers, tend to be heartier than others are. They usually are still healthy and productive when the fall planting season arrives. This longevity occurs even more frequently in gardens of the Deep South, where the growing season is exceptionally long, and with experienced gardeners, who have become adept at raising vegetables successfully. Unfortunately, some gardeners remove these thriving plants and replace them with fall crops anyway. The destruction of these hearty plants is an absolute waste of several months of diligent effort and other worthwhile resources. If left in the garden, these vibrant plants would probably continue to produce tasty vegetables until the first frost, which probably would not occur for another several months.
As an experienced gardener in the Deep South, I know every year that my summer crops will continue to produce throughout the fall. In this area, north Georgia, the first frost, which of course is deadly to summer crops, usually does not occur any earlier than late November. Consequently, I can usually count on my plants producing tomatoes and lima beans at least until November. In fact, I have often picked summer vegetables in December. Thus, my sentiment is, take the bounty that nature gives me. If the climate where I live and my efforts during the earlier months permit me to have backyard tomatoes during the week before Christmas, I should embrace this privilege, not destroy it.
Consequently, this is the overriding principle that I follow and recommend in regard to fall planting: Never destroy summer plants that are healthy and productive. Remember the old saying, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." Why dig up properly developed plants that are definitely producing food to replace them with seeds or transplants that might never develop properly or produce anything? And why casually discard the worthwhile fruits of your diligent efforts from the spring and summer when doing so is not necessary? Instead, simply allow these healthy, productive summer vegetables to remain in your garden for the fall. Do, however, take this ideal opportunity to remove any dying or dead summer plants from your garden. Then sow seeds or install transplants for fresh fall vegetables in their place.
The possibility exists that you may not have any morbid plants in your garden that are worthy of being replaced when the fall planting season arrives. This situation is more likely to occur with experienced gardeners, who have become exceptionally skilled at raising vegetables successfully. I still recommend that you refrain from destroying healthy, productive plants. Instead, resign yourself to having only summer vegetables in your garden for the fall.
Of course, the freezing temperatures of winter will certainly kill them, leaving their spaces available then. Many crops that are suited for planting for fall are also suited for planting in early spring, so consider planting them at this alternative time. Then, when you create your garden for the summer, depending upon your level of confidence that all your new crops will be vibrant and remain that way, you may choose to leave a portion of the plot empty so that you will definitely have some space available to sow the seeds or install the transplants for some fall vegetables when the time arrives.