What can you plant in September?? Here are 5 crops you can still plant in September. This post is meant mainly for those of us living in Zones 4 to 7, in the northern hemisphere.
Summer is slipping a way very quickly now, only a few short weeks and it will officially be fall. The arrival of September brings with it cooler temperatures and considerably shorter days. Production from our warm weather crops is in full swing, melons, tomatoes, cucumbers and more are covering our counter tops.
But all of those plants are starting to slowly burn out. You may already have some empty spots in your garden. Why not fill those spots with late plantings of cool weather crops. There are 5 crops you can still plant in September. I recommend planting either by seed or with starts (if you can find them).
First Frost date
The key to planting the 5 crops you can still plant in September is your first frost date. Use this frost date calculator to determine when your first frost is expected. You can then count back two weeks. This date becomes your “drop dead date” for your final fall plantings.
The second thing to keep in mind is most of the plants you will be putting in in September will be planted for over wintering and will be used for late winter harvests or early spring harvest. So you need to plan on a hoop house, cold frame or at a bare minimum some Heavy Fabric Row Cover to protect these late plantings. So what can you still plant?
The first of the 5 Crops you can still plant in September is Mache. This is one of our favorite greens. Machè also know as corn salad or some times lambs lettuce, is a super hardy leafy green that grows very well in the winter time. Machè is one of those rare plants that continues to grow during the winter when day length drops below 10 hours.
This salad crop can be planted starting 2 weeks before your last frost. And seeds can be put in the ground for a good part of the fall. Wait for things to start to cool off a bit before you plant. Machè actually prefers temperatures to be cooler (ideal is 65) before it will germinate, so don’t bother planting now if you are still experiencing days in the 90’s.
Machè has a delicious nutty flavor and makes a wonderful salad in the winter time. It is used as a salad green, not as a cooked green. Plant a lot of it, they are small plants so it takes quite a few to make a decent salad. They are harvested by cutting the entire plant off at the base. Mache is a one time plant, not a cut and come again plant like lettuce.
It can be hard to find seeds locally, your best chance of finding them is with some of the online growers like this one.
You can plant spinach up until around 2 weeks before your first frost. Plantings this late in the year will not provide a harvest this fall or winter. Instead you are planting for the spring. These late plantings will get up and growing before the cold weather sets in but expect them to only have a few small leaves.
You will need to offer them some type of protection over the winter (a Mini hoop house or cold frame would be best). Once the weather starts to warm up in February these plants will take off and give you your earliest spring harvest ever!
Here too you are planting mostly for the spring now. Lettuce plantings in September will grow slowly all winter. Those small lettuce plants are surprisingly cold hardy and just like spinach they will take off in the spring for a delicious early harvest.
Choose mostly leaf lettuces for theses plantings. I have found those small leaf lettuce plants survive very well in a cold frame. Also look for extra hardy varieties like winter density, that are meant to do well in the winter. These hardy varieties can be found online here.
Kale is one of the hardiest plants out there. I have found the crinkly leaf varieties like Vates or Winterbore to be particularly hardy. Kale planted in September will grow slowly and will still be small when winter sets in. But it will provide a good harvest of small leaves all winter. Then the plants will take off in the spring.
Because kale is so hardy it will grow unprotected in your garden until early winter (think December). In all but the coldest areas the only winter protection they will need is a piece of heavy fabric row cover. And you will love the improved taste the cold weather imparts to your kale, it’s like a different veggie this time of year.
Also known as miners lettuce, Claytonia is actually a weed that grows in California. This little beauty is another plant that isn’t deterred from growing when there is less than 10 hours of sun. Plant this one to add some variety to your winter salads.
The leaves on claytonia are small so you should use it as an addition to salads, based on other crops. Try tucking a few seeds of this fun plant into a corner of your cold frame or hoop house this year!
It’s not too late to think about planting a few other leafy greens. These greens will be over wintered and gardeners will harvest them in the late winter after the 10 hour days return. You can even plant things like turnips or beets. BUT you will be growing them only for the small tender tops, not the roots. Other greens include arugula, chard, chicory, endive, mizuna, sorrel and tatsoi.
Remember all of the 5 Crops you can still plant in September require protection if you live in a cold winter area. Mini hoop houses or cold frames are a great addition to your garden! And will extend your harvest all winter long!
If you live in a warmer part of the world (zones 8 to 10) your planting dates for these winter goodies will be much later. Consult your local extension agency for planting times for your area!
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