Now that it’s August, you’ve been enjoying your garden’s produce. Some varieties of tomatoes have already ripened. The fresh corn has been delicious. You’ve had beans and salads fresh from the garden. But, it’s time to start thinking about your second harvest of quick growing and cool weather veggies.
The average first frost on Long Island is the end of October (central North Shore and North Fork) to early November (North Shore of western Suffolk and Nassau counties). These, of course, are averages. I remember a December when I still had geraniums blooming while I was putting out my Christmas wreath. And, there have been early Octobers with frost, times when I’ve rushed to get my houseplants, which were summering outside, back into the house.
First, look at the packages of seeds and see how long it is from planting to maturity. For something like green beans, depending on variety it can be anywhere from 50 to 60 days. So, knowing that the end of October is just about the last of the growing season, count backward. You need to plant the last of your green beans, again depending on variety, by the beginning of September. That will give you the two full months you need for plant maturity. Start now, and plant another row each week, finishing up the beginning of September. Lettuce is another quick growing crop. Leaf lettuce is a cool weather crop and matures in 40 to 50 days. So, the last sowing of lettuce needs to be mid-September. Head lettuce takes longer — 70 to 90 days, so chances are it won’t have time to mature.
Some varieties of cucumbers will mature in 60 days, while others take longer.
Summer squash will mature in about 60 days and radishes under a month. You can plant your radishes up to the end of September and still have a harvest before frost.
Green onions (scallions) will be ready to be picked in 50 to 60 days. Again, plant up until the beginning of September. Okra will mature in 50 to 60 days. Corn will mature, depending on variety, in 65 days and beets in 55 to 70 days. Kohlrabi will mature in 50 to 60 days.
Tomatoes are interesting in that the plants you put down in spring will continue to set fruit into fall, as long as the weather doesn’t get too cold. This means that you may have a lot of green tomatoes at the first frost. If they are large and with a tinge of orange, try to ripen them indoors. Some people swear by the brown paper bag method. Or, consider either making fried green tomatoes or pickled tomatoes. This latter treatment is more reliable. I’ve had some tomatoes I’ve tried to ripen just go to mush, especially if they were very small.
Remember that the above, and any dates listed on seed packages, are for optimal conditions. A sudden cold spell can delay plant maturity. Second crops can be less reliable than planting in spring, but, all you’ve invested is the cost of a few packages of seed. If it’s very dry, remember to water well. Use fertilizer, especially for very heavy feeders like tomatoes. Good luck and enjoy your second harvest!
Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions to [email protected] To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.