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Plant veggies now for fall

Spring isn't the only season to plant vegetables. Planting seeds in your garden in July and August for fall production can yield great results.

Most cool-season vegetables planted in the summer grow as well or better than those planted in the spring, according to University of Nebraska Extension. The flavors of fall vegetables are often sweeter and milder.

Fall vegetable choices are influenced by available space, grower preference, and intended use.

Semi-hardy vegetables can withstand light frost (30 degrees F. to 32 degrees F). Beets, potatoes, leaf lettuce, radishes, and spinach all fall into this category.

Hardy vegetables can withstand several frosts but are killed when temperatures drop near 20 degrees F. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots, turnips, and kale are all in this category of hardy vegetables.

When selecting seed, look for cultivars labeled early season or select seed with the fewest days to maturity. If you purchase seed in the spring (when it is most available), be sure to store seeds in a cool, dry location.

Calculating when to plant

To determine when to plant a particular vegetable, know the average date of the killing frost in your area and the cultivar's number of days to maturity.

To estimate when to plant fall crops, use the following formula: Number of days from seeding to harvest + average harvest period + fall factor (about 14 days) + frost tender factor (about 14 days) = days to count back from first expected fall frost.

Weeds often take over a garden as summer progresses, so start fresh with a fall garden. If the soil is extremely dry, irrigate lightly a day or two before planting. Plant seeds in narrow trenches to conserve moisture. Cover seeds twice as deep as you would during spring planting to keep them from drying during germination.

Although most seeds will germinate quickly, some seeds (such as lettuce, peas, and spinach) will not germinate well if the soil temperature is above 85 degrees F. Try shading the seeds until they germinate with a board or a light mulch to keep the soil cooler.

Root crops (such as beets, carrots, and turnips) can be left in the ground through the fall. Once there is a hard freeze, mulch plants with a heavy layer of straw to keep the ground from freezing. Root crops can be dug as needed throughout the winter.

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