City Seedling: The End of Summer

Summer is over. Put away your white sandals and sunblock, because it’s done. Finito.

Well, not exactly.

It’s over for kids and vacationers, but not for gardeners. Many home tomato crops yield their greatest volume of fruit in September, and keep giving well into October. Hardier plants, like squash or brussels sprouts, will take you into Thanksgiving, if the temperatures are right.

Which leads me to: cool weather crops. Many of the same things we plant in the early spring – salad greens, broccoli and others — can be planted again in late summer for a fall crop.

I love fall plantings. It’s like a last minute do-over, a gardener’s Hail Mary. If you don’t like the state of your garden, if you’ve been disappointed with your yields, you have one. last. chance. to make it right. Greeted with fading larkspur and a terrifying number of habanero peppers still growing (see below) I decided to sow some fall crops.

A larkspur in old age.

So…many…peppers. If you want one, let me know.

My fall planting was delayed a couple of weeks, by Irene and a few others things, but finally on Labor Day I scratched a few seeds into the ground. I planted spinach and carrots, both of which are lovely to eat even if they don’t reach full maturity, which they probably won’t.

The first frost date for our area (zone 6) is October 15. However, in the years since I have been paying attention to it, (admittedly, not many) the first frost usually arrives closer to Halloween, hopefully giving my seeds just under 60 days. Carrots can even stay in the ground past the first frost, as long as the ground isn’t frozen.

So even though it’s late, clean out the spent annuals that you’re sick of looking at anyway, and throw down some of your leftover spring seeds.

If you plant carrots, try planting them along side radishes, which act as a “nurse crop”. (Read more tips for growing carrots here.)

And here are some spinach planting tips.

As with any newly planted seeds, it’s important to keep the ground moist to ensure proper germination. Luckily, the remnants of Hurricane Lee are taking care of that for me this week.

These seeds are the last thing I’ll plant in my plot this year, which always feels a little sad. At some point this fall, I will move the two rose bushes which I grew from cuttings over to my mom’s house, where they will have room to spread out. I will take cuttings again, and nurse them inside (I will be sure to post about it).

Happy growing,


Are you planting any cool weather crops? Tell us about it in the comments!

Emily Helck

a lifelong New Jersey resident who moved to Jersey City in 2006. She earned an MA in English and writing from Fordham University. In addition to blogging about gardening in the city, her personal blog RTONJ is about being a young adult with cancer. She lives downtown with a dog, two cats, and her husband.