To be ready for a beautiful autumn harvest, it is necessary to plan and plant during summer. This is mainly to take advantage of the longer, warmer days which the vegetables of fall need to reach their peak.
With the exception of rhubarb and mushrooms, nearly all vegetables prefer full sun. Even cool season leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach and kale tolerate some light shade but grow faster in full sun.
In gardening terms, ‘full sun’ means a minimum of six to eight hours of sunlight. In coastal areas those hours should be continuous and not interrupted by fog or clouds. In hot inland locations, afternoon shade is ideal to avoid scalding and wilting.
Full sun locations naturally change during the seasons and it is important to take them into consideration when planting. What was sunny all day during the summer might be become shady during the winter. So although you’ll be reaping the rewards in autumn, you need to take advantage of the summer months to get the best results.
Below are the best plants to get started during summer so you can enjoy your fall harvest.
Root Vegetables, Edible Bulbs and Tubers
Since the edible part of the plant is below ground, it might seem like root vegetables such as carrots, beets and radishes don’t require full sun. But, even though these are cool season vegetables, they still require full sun.
Onions, garlic and shallots are edible bulbs which grow much better in full sun.
Potatoes are a tuber and member of the same family as tomatoes. They too require full sun to grow best.
Serving Idea: Put together a root vegetable medley by roasting beets, carrots, potatoes, onions and garlic on a medium hot grill for 45 minutes. Serve with crunchy bread.
Broccoli, broccoli rabe, artichokes and cauliflower are vegetables comprised of the edible immature flowers of the plant.
Artichoke is a perennial in mild winter regions and blooms year after year. It is best to divide the plants every three or four years so they continue to thrive.
Harvest these vegetable when the flowers are still tightly budded and green. Once the bud shows color, they lose flavor or become bitter.
Serving Idea: Both broccoli and cauliflower make a delicious creamy soup.
Beans and peas prefer full sun, although beans thrive with long warm sunny days and peas prefer cooler temperatures. Some beans, such as lima, garbanzo and fava don’t have edible pods. In contrast, peas, such as snap peas and snow peas have edible pods.
For English peas, wait until the peas fill out the pods before harvesting. Their pods are too fibrous to be edible and should be discarded.
Serving Idea: Throw a handful of young tender snap beans or peas in your next salad.
Tomatoes and Peppers
While tomatoes and peppers are completely different vegetables, they share the same growing conditions. Both require full sun, long warm days and an adequate supply of water. Grow them in summer for a plentiful fall supply.
Serving Idea: Grill slices of tomatoes and peppers. Toss with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice for a fast, warm salad.
Winter squash grows during the summer months. It’s called winter squash because the hard shell of the mature fruit keeps the squash fresh after it’s harvested. That way it lasts right into winter. Winter squash includes Hubbard, acorn and spaghetti squash.
Summer squash, also called zucchini, has a thin skin, so it’s perishable soon after harvesting.
Serving Idea: Stuff squash with rice, breadcrumbs or other chopped vegetables.
Corn is a garden hog so isn’t suited to most small garden plots. One corn plant produces two ears of corn and requires three square feet of space. If the plants are crowded, the amount of corn produced will decrease. production decreases.
Corn demands full sun and warm days. Serve it picked at the peak of freshness.
Serving Idea: Put in rapidly boiling salted water for five minutes. Serve with butter, a slice of lime and cayenne pepper.
Planting the above vegetables will give you plenty of fresh vegetable produce during the fall months. Take the time to plan and plant during summer and maximize the sunshine hours for a thriving fall vegetable garden.