“It’s too late to build a garden this year” is a statement we hear over and over again at The Urban Farm Company. Having installed hundreds of raised bed vegetable gardens for homeowners and businesses along the Front Range, we’ve realized the statement couldn’t be further from the truth. We believe that one of the best times to install a garden is actually in the mid-Summer or Fall, specifically late July through early September.
It sounds crazy, but planting most cold season vegetables—such as spinach, radishes, lettuce, kale, chard, sugar snap peas—in the fall yields abundant harvests as the weather cools in September and October. [Check out all the fall crops.] Fall gardening is also perfect for those excited to impress friends with more exotic non-grocery vegetables such as Chinese cabbage, tatsoi, mache, sorrel, and Hon Tsai Tai—greens that thrive in cooler temperatures.
Every Colorado gardener has experienced their leafy greens “bolting” in June and July as the summer heat stops the plant’s leafy production. If you plant these same vegetables in August and September the warm weather in late summer allows seeds to germinate quickly and then mature as the weather cools down. The soil structure and ecology is also given time to develop over the course of the winter, setting the stage for the prized purple heirloom tomatoes, beans, and kohlrabi planted in the spring.
Using a Cold Frame
Raised beds will also allow you to attach a cold frame to your garden—an easy trick to extend the season even further into the winter (and to start your gardening earlier in the spring). Check out our other post about how to use a cold frame. The simple frames with greenhouse plastic create an insulated micro-climate for plants. Nothing is more exciting than harvesting a salad of premium greens in the middle of December with a foot of snow on the ground. The frames also let you beat the farmers’ market by several weeks, by producing the first salad greens of the year in March or April.
Don’t wait until next spring to start a garden. Get one in the fall!