The brightest star in the constellation Canis Major is Sirius, which is also the brightest star in the sky after the sun. Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians believed the morning rising and evening setting of Sirius along with our sun during July and August intensified the heat and humidity.
This led to the term “dog days of summer.” These last from July 3 to Aug. 11. Soon the dog days of summer will be behind us, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean cooler temperatures, we are edging ever closer to autumn.
School is starting back and fall activities will soon be filling our calendars. While we are busy scheduling activities, don’t overlook planting dates for fall gardens.
Most people only think about vegetable gardens in the spring; that’s easy to understand. We’re usually more motivated to plant something after the gloom of winter, and working in the garden during cool spring days versus the 90-degree heat is a plus.
However, there are plenty of vegetables we can start now for an autumn harvest. The positive side of a fall garden is it “should” be cooler weather when it’s time to harvest.
Believe it or not, we are at the transitional period between warm season and cool season crops. While there is still time to plant many of the warm season vegetables, we can also start setting out some of our favorite cool season vegetables.
The great thing about cool season vegetables is they can be planted in multiple stages to allow for a longer harvest period. Here are vegetables to add to your garden this month.
Vegetables to direct seed throughout August: plant snap beans, lima beans, beets, cucumbers, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, okra, southern (black-eyed) peas, radishes, rutabagas, squash, and turnips. Vegetable transplants to plant throughout August: broccoli, cauliflower, eggplants, bell peppers, shallots, and tomatoes.
Now is also a good time to start transplants of broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage from seeds. Planted during August, these transplants will be ready to plant in your garden from September to October. Towards the end of August, you can start planting Brussels sprout plants, cabbage plants, carrot seeds, celery plants, Swiss chard plants, and kohlrabi plants.
When selecting tomatoes for fall planting, look for determinate and heat-set varieties. The timeframe from planting to fruiting is shortened in fall planted tomatoes due to the warmer temperatures. This can also cause issues with tomatoes setting fruit though if temperatures are too warm. Varieties such as Florida 91, Phoenix, Sun Leaper, Solar Set, and Sunmaster are best for warm weather.
Cole crops (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage) are divided into varieties more suitable for fall crops and those better suited to winter/spring crops. Look for varieties recommended for fall planting.
Some of the recommended varieties are Broccoli – Blue Wind, Castle Dome, Everest, Packman, and Premium Crop; Brussels sprouts – Jade Cross E and Long Island Improved; Cabbage – Bravo, Rio Verde, Vantage Point, Royal Vantage, Cheers, and Emblem; Cauliflower – Snow Crown, Cumberland, and Candid Charm.
For something different in Cauliflower, try one of the yellow or purple varieties such as Flame Star – 80 (yellow) or Graffiti – 80 (purple). Romanesco is a hybrid between broccoli and cauliflower that grows well in the fall. It produces heads chartreuse in color with a firmer texture than cauliflower and a slight nutty flavor. Veronica and Puntoverde are two recommended varieties.
With so many vegetable options to plant in our fall gardens, it can be difficult to choose. Luckily for us we can have fresh vegetables up into winter. Keep those shovels sharp and get to digging, it’s always time to plant something. The dog days of summer are almost over.
Clark Robertson is the assistant county agent for horticulture for Livingston and Tangipahoa parishes. For more information on these or related topics, contact Clark at (225) 686-3020 or visit www.lsuagcenter.com/livingston.