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Hort in the Home Landscape

A blog devoted to sharing timely horticulture topics and answering the questions of gardeners and homeowners.
Frost tolerant
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It's Not Too Late for a Fall Vegetable Garden


Are you a procrastinator like me who just hasn't gotten around to planting your vegetables for a fall harvest yet? Well don't despair. There is still time to get a few things planted.

Vegetables are grouped into categories based on how much cold they can tolerate. When we're thinking about a fall garden, the plants listed as very hardy or frost tolerant are the crops we want to consider. These will be able to survive the cold temperatures allowing enough time for the plant to mature and be harvested.

The plants listed as very hardy should be planted about 8-10 weeks before the average first frost which is right about now. The average first frost date for northern Illinois is approximately October 15, so 8 weeks before then would put you at August 20 for planting. Those plants that could be planted from seed include kale, kohlrabi, leaf lettuces, onions, peas, rutabaga, salsify, spinach, and turnip. You could also plant broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, and onion sets or plants if transplants are ready and available.

The frost tolerant plants should also be planted 8-10 weeks before the average first frost. The plants listed as frost tolerant include beets, chard, mustard, parsnip, radish, all of which are planted by seed. You could also plant cauliflower or Chinese cabbage from transplants.

Whatever you choose to grow, be sure to choose the vegetable variety with the smallest date to maturity. You want that vegetable to grow to harvest as soon as possible to avoid injury from frost.

Keep in mind that the average frost date is in fact an average. There is no telling when the actual first frost will occur. Keeping that in mind, it's always a good idea to think about getting some floating row cover material that can be placed over your vegetables if an early frost is going to occur. This floating row cover can help trap heat around your vegetables and increase the temperature below a couple of degrees. This may make the difference between plant survival or death by frost injury.

U of I Extension has many resources available for vegetable gardeners on their various websites: http://web.extension.illinois.edu/vegguide/

University of Minnesota also has a nice chart explaining fall vegetables: http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/M1227.html



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