The school calendar can present many challenges to a robust garden program, since the peak of the growing season falls in midsummer in most places, a time when children are out of school. By taking advantage of fall gardening season extension methods, we can grow all year long and enjoy the natural rhythms of the year.

In August when our children return to school, the summer vegetables are perfect for picking. Favorites are tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs. We also eat the last of the previous season’s carrots just in time to plant more for winter harvest. By late August and September, we are transplanting kale and cabbages and direct seeding lettuces, spinach, and radishes. Planting a fall garden allows us to practice our gardening methods like working with hand tools and watering, so that we will feel more comfortable by spring and be ready to plant right away when the soil warms again.

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Early fall also offers the opportunity to observe insects in the garden before they disappear in winter. We can observe the metamorphosis of the butterfly, catch grasshoppers, and notice parasitic wasps on the tomato hornworms. The late-season spiders are at their most dramatic, and there is a short window before cold arrives when we can see all of these garden creatures in their element.

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Next month we will learn about how to protect our plants throughout the winter so that we can continue to harvest in the coming months.