It’s that time of year again! The air is getting slightly cooler, and the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) is back in town which can only mean one thing: Summer is sadly coming to an end.
With the air getting cooler, this necessarily does not mean you have to close your garden! There is a small window of opportunity to grow some vegetables if you live in Zones 5 and 6. This is due to the impact of the weather we receive in this region. If you are unfamiliar with your Zone number, this is a great resource to check out!
Before we get into the type of vegetables to plant, there are three tips to consider if you are thinking of planting in September:
The First Frost Date
Knowing the first frost date will help determine when the latest date you can plant seeds before the first frost comes to avoid freezing the seeds. Based on yearly averages, the first frost date in the Greater Toronto Area is the first week of November. Be sure to check your local weather station for accurate readings!
After determining the frost date, count back for 2 weeks. This becomes your “drop dead date” for your final fall plantings. Planting 2 weeks before the frost date will allow the germinated seeds to develop in the warm ground before it becomes too cold to grow.
Protection for Your Plants
The second tip is to ensure you have the right protection for your plants. Living in Zone 5 and 6 has its challenges – the main one being the unpredictability of the weather. Having the right resources on hand to protect your plants at a moment's notice is important for the care of your garden.
Some of the protections we suggest being used for majority of the crops are:
Heavy fabric row cover
Fertilizing Your Soil
Just like during the warmer Summer months, adding fertilizer to your soil before planting will create an enriched environment for your fall crop! The microbes in our organic biofertilizer will react with the existing microbes in the soil, making sure there are additional nutrients for the plant’s roots to absorb!
Some of the crops we suggest planting in September will be grown for overwintering and will be harvested by early winter or early spring.
Now that we have prepped for your Fall Garden, read on to plan the 5 crops you can plant in September for Zones 5 and 6:
Mâche is one of those rare plants that grows best in cool weather, making it a great vegetable to plant if you reside in Zones 5 and 6. This is an annual plant that grows wild in corn fields, thus receiving its nickname 'corn salad'! To plant a cool crop, make sure you cover the fertilized soil with a wooden board for a few days before sowing. With its nutty flavour, Mâche can be used for salad greens rather than cooked greens.
Here are some tips on how to plant Mâche:
Sun Exposure: full sun to part shade
Soil Type: well-draining, rich (6.5-7.0 pH)
Water: regular schedule in the early mornings. If the plant is in exposed to full sun, water more frequently
Harvest: anytime before its 50-70 days maturity
Spinach is a cool-season leafy green that thrives in the cool temperatures of Zones 5 and 6 during the month of September. Spinach grows very quickly and is a great source of vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium. Growing Spinach in containers is another great option for accessibility!
Here are some tips on how to plant Spinach:
Sun Exposure: full sun to partial shade. If the sun is strong, add a layer of netting for protection
Soil Type: well-draining, organically rich (6.5-8.0 pH)
Water: water frequently to keep the soil moist, but not soggy to prevent bolting. Adding a layer of mulch is also an option to keep the moisture in the soil
Harvest: To get the “cut and come again” method, trim off individual leaves with garden scissors starting with the older outer leaves. An inch about the base of the plant
Lettuce is a versatile and delicious crop that can thrive when planted in September. Like spinach, lettuce prefers cooler temperatures and can withstand light frosts so you can plant the seeds directly into the soil. There are various types of lettuce, from crisp-heads to loose-leaf varieties, allowing you to enjoy a diverse salad harvest!
Here are some tips on how to plant Lettuce:
Sun Exposure: full to partial sun
Soil Type: light, rich in organic matter, and well-draining (6.0-7.0 pH)
Water: maintain an even soil moisture. If the lettuce plants get too dry, they could start bolting, leaving the leaves bitter
Harvest: the best time to harvest is early in the morning when the lettuce is still plump and the sun hasn’t caused the plant to wilt. Trimming off the outer leaves first will also allow the inner leaves to mature, creating a continuos growth
Kale planted in September will grow slowly and will be small when winter sets in. However, it will provide a good harvest of small leaves all winter. Since kale is so hardy, it can grow unprotected in your garden until early winter. The only winter protection they will need is a piece of heavy fabric row cover
Here are some tips on how to plant Kale:
Sun Exposure: full to partial sun
Soil Type: loamy, moist, and well-drained
Water: Kale needs a consistent amount of water to stay healthy. Keeping the soil evenly moist helps make the kale leaves sweet and crispy. Adding mulch will help keep the soil cool and retain moisture
Harvest: it will take about 2 months for your kale plants to mature from seed. Harvesting the outer leaves first will allow the inner leaves to continue to produce
5. Swiss Chard
As a winter vegetable, Swiss Chard grows well with other root crops, like carrots, turnips, and parsnips. It has a fast growth rate, with its best growth occurring in mild temperatures
Here are some tips on how to plant Swiss Chard:
Sun Exposure: It will tolerate partial shade, though it thrives under full sun
Soil Type: Organically rich soil with good drainage (6.0-6.4 pH)
Water: Keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. A layer of mulch around the plants can help to retain soil moisture
Harvest: Most Swiss Chard varieties are ready to harvest in 50 to 60 days. If you don’t disrupt the crown, it will fill up with more leaves
With cooler weather approaching, September is a prime time to extend your growing season if you live in Zones 5 and 6 by planting a selection of cold-hardy crops. Leafy greens such as Mâche, Lettuce, Kale, Spinach, and Swiss Chard are all excellent choices for this period. These crops take advantage of the cooler temperatures and can often withstand light frosts, providing you with a fresh and diverse harvest well into the fall months.
Although these 5 vegetables can thrive in September, they still require protection if you live in a cold winter area. Mini hoop houses or cold frames are a great addition to keeping your garden warm and will extend your harvest all winter long!
To grow a successful Fall Garden, you must prepare your soil adequately, provide proper spacing, and ensure consistent moisture. With a little effort and careful planning, you can enjoy a rich and abundant harvest that rewards your gardening goals. So, grab your gardening tools, get your hands dirty, and relish the joy of cultivating your own delicious produce this September!
Freda is a Toronto-based social media and digital marketer. New to the plant world, she is looking forward to learning all the tips and tricks on how to keep her plant babies thriving! If she's not walking her Maltipoo puppy Leo, you can find her practising yoga or enjoying live music.