We are entering an active time in the home vegetable garden. The late summer garden includes plantings of both warm-season vegetables (many of the same ones we planted in spring) and some of the more heat-tolerant, cool-season vegetables.

Visit area nurseries to see what vegetable transplants and seeds are available this month. You may also order seeds from online seed companies.

The overview

We broadly divide vegetable growing into two seasons:

  • The warm season, frost-free with mild to hot temperatures, runs from March/April to November/December.
  • The cool season, when freezes may occur, with mild to cold temperatures, runs from October through April.

Vegetables can be grown in raised garden beds. 

Although there is some overlap at the beginning and end of these two seasons, we grow distinctively different vegetables in the different seasons.

What allows us to plant warm-season vegetables now is that we still have many weeks of frost-free weather ahead. We would not expect the first frosts on the south shore until sometime in early to mid-December, and on the north shore, late November to early December.

So, for instance, there is plenty of time to grow a fall crop of tomatoes. Tomatoes planted in mid-August should begin to produce ripe fruit in late October, and then well into late November or December.

But timing is important. You must get warm-season vegetables planted this month, although gardeners in the south shore New Orleans area may get away with planting the first week of September.

When it comes to cool-season vegetables though, there is no hurry. As hot as August has been and likely will continue to be, you can wait for milder weather to plant them. Chilly weather and even freezes will not bother them.

This weeks gardening tips: August vegetables, tidy vegetables gardens, and more

Find the right tomato variety for late-summer planting.

Preparing to plant

SUNNY DAYS: Proper site selection is critical for a successful vegetable garden. All vegetables produce best with plenty of sun, so the site should receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. Full or all-day sun is preferable. If your sunniest area is covered in concrete, many fall vegetables grow well in large containers.

CLEAR, TILL, ADD: Be sure to prepare beds properly before planting this next set of crops. Clear the site of all weeds or old, finished vegetable plants. Turn the soil with a shovel, garden fork or tiller to a depth of at least 8 inches and spread a 2- to 4-inch layer of homemade or purchased compost over the tilled soil.

This helps to maintain the organic matter in the soil, which adds mineral nutrients, encourages a strong, healthy root system, retains moisture while improving drainage, encourages beneficial soil microorganisms and earthworms and promotes vigorous plant growth.

An application of general-purpose commercial or organic fertilizer should also be incorporated into the soil to boost fertility. Follow label directions of the product you choose.

WATER & MULCH: Watering is particularly important when planting during the intense heat of late summer. Beds that are direct seeded should be watered lightly every day until the seeds come up and then monitored carefully. Newly planted transplants may also need daily attention for the first week or two after planting.

Mulching 1 to 2 inches deep can help considerably by preventing soil from drying out so fast and keeping the soil cooler. Transplants should be mulched as soon as they are planted. When planting seeds, wait until the seedlings are several inches tall and then mulch.

Late summer-fall vegetables

This weeks gardening tips: August vegetables, tidy vegetables gardens, and more

Broccoli is a great fall vegetable.

NIGHTSHADES: If your eggplant and pepper plants from the spring are still in reasonably good shape, they will often produce an excellent fall crop once the weather begins to cool down. Or you can plant new transplants this month.

TOMATOES: Spring-planted tomato plants rarely survive the summer in decent shape, and new transplants are generally used for the fall crop. Local nurseries will have tomato transplants available this month.

Varieties recommended for late summer planting/fall production include many of the heat-tolerant types, such as Florida 91, Spitfire, Solar Set, Heatwave II, Phoenix, Sunleaper, Sunmaster, Solar Fire or Talladega. Cherry and paste tomatoes also produce well in the fall, as well as old standards like Celebrity. I recommend that you plant several varieties for the best results.

SNAP BEANS: Fall snap beans are one of the easiest and most reliable vegetables. Wait until late August or early September to plant so they will come into bloom after the weather has begun to turn cooler. Choose bush types.

Normally, 50 to 55 days are required from planting until harvest begins. Keep the beans well-watered during dry periods. Recommended bush snap bean cultivars include Blue Lake 274, Bronco, Contender, Derby, Festina, Lynx, Magnum, Provider, Roma II, Royal Burgundy, Strike and Valentino.

BROCCOLI: It’s one of the best fall vegetables. Transplants may be planted this month through early October. Seeds can be planted now through early September and planted into pots or flats and transplanted into the garden, or direct seeded into the garden where they will grow.

Plant transplants 12 to 18 inches apart into well-prepared beds. After the main head is harvested, side branches will produce smaller heads often doubling the production of each plant.

VEGGIE LIST: Here’s a list of the vegetables that can be planted into the garden this month:

Warm-season vegetables: Plant transplants of tomato, eggplant and pepper and seeds of bush lima beans, bush snap beans (late August), cucumber and summer squash.

Cool-season vegetables: Plant transplants of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Swiss chard and seeds of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, collards, mustard, rutabagas, and Swiss chard and sets of bunching onions.

Be prepared to watch for and control pests. Insect and disease pressure is usually greater in the fall than in the spring.

Garden columnist Dan Gill answers readers’ questions each week. To send a question, email Gill at [email protected].