Take advantage of our climate and plant for a second harvest
By: Bobby Smith
It’s midsummer in Georgia right now. But it could be spring all over again for vegetables. We generally plant summer vegetable crops in March and April in the Lake Oconee area and wind them up about this time of year. But we can grow two summer crops in Georgia. The growing season can start in spring around mid-March. It doesn’t have to end until the first frost of fall. This usually happens around mid-October in the mountains and mid- to late-November in the southern part of the state.
According to Terry Kelley, extension horticulturist with UGA, that means we can plant crops like tomatoes, pepper, squash, sweet corn, southern peas, snap beans, cantaloupe and eggplant all over again. Cooler season fall crops can be planted a little later. Some folks may plant at intervals from spring through midsummer, which is fine. Others may carry out harvests on tomatoes, squash and the like throughout the summer. However, rather than trying to keep the same plants producing indefinitely, you often get a better harvest by making a fresh start.
Tomatoes, pepper and eggplant should be transplanted just as you did in the spring. For crops like squash, cantaloupes and cucumbers, however, seeding them directly into the ground will work just as well if not better. Snap beans, sweet corn and southern peas are generally directly seeded. Don’t plant the same crop back in the same place. Rotate your space so you can reduce potential disease problems. If you planted squash there this spring, plant pepper there for the second crop. Rotate families of crops. Plant peppers, tomatoes or eggplant where you had squash, cucumbers or cantaloupe. But don’t plant cucumbers on the same ground where you had squash.
Getting a crop established will be more of a challenge than it was in the spring. Because of the intense heat, you’ll need to keep the garden watered enough to reduce heat and drought stress. Water the garden early during the day to provide some cooling on the surface and allow foliage to dry by nightfall.
Don’t wait! From late July until frost will be roughly 100 days, so crops that mature in less than three and a half months will usually make before frost, barring an early fall. However, the longer you wait, the longer it will take your second crop to mature as days get shorter and the weather cools off (eventually). So start these crops by early August. Some fast-maturing crops like snap beans, cucumbers and squash can still produce if planted by early September.
So don’t let the summer heat cheat you out of the rewards of your fall harvest!