Second Chance Gardening
by Paul “Dr. Q” Noe, Staff Horticulturist/Certified Horticulture Advisor, Star Nursery
Ahhh, fall. In the vegetable garden, we like to call it “Second Spring.”
If you planted tomatoes this past spring and watched your plants struggle all summer, you’re not alone. The quickly rising temperatures of June were enough to catch even the most prepared gardener off guard.
Have no fear because Second Spring is here, and that means a second chance at getting those juicy tomatoes. You’ll find that it’s worth it to dedicate some room in the fall garden for this warmer weather crop.
Here in the desert, our fall can feel like an extension of summer, which is great for seed germination. It’s perfect for direct seeding some fall leafy greens, like swiss chard or kale, and for root vegetables such as beets or turnips.
However, you should save your tomato seeds for indoor starting in January. Our fall season is too short to direct seed tomatoes. Opt for four-inch or larger size containers when you buy your transplants.
Give up a little bit of space for quick developing varieties, such as Early Girl. Since temperatures stay warm well into October, you should be able to get a decent harvest out of the plants if you get them in the ground in September.
We can see temperatures near freezing as early as mid-November, so be sure to check the weather regularly for warnings. Harvest even the green tomatoes before a frost. Storing green tomatoes indoors at room temperature allows them to ripen and turn red. If you want them to ripen more quickly, place them in a sunny spot (like a kitchen window) and they will be ripe within a few days.
Once the first near freezing temperatures set in, pull up your tomatoes and plant a cold hardy crop, such as peas or beets to get the most out of the space in your garden.
Happy Planting. Happy Eating.