Plant Swiss Chard & Lettuce in October?
Hi! I'm a wannabe food grower. I saw some Swiss Chard & Lettuce starts at Grocery Outlet the other day and was curious if I could still plant these in October? I downloaded and read your "Growing Your Own" booklet (very helpful!) and notice that these two should be planted in my region from April -July. Susan P.S. Love the website!
Thanks for your question about fall planting. The answer is a qualified 'yes.' The keys to growing these leafy vegetables are heat and light. (Water is another one, but we're soon to have enough of that to move south.) Both of these plants 'bolt,' or start producing seeds, once the weather gets too hot--and then we typically quit harvesting them. But, because there is less heat in the fall, along with less sun for photosynthesis, their seed production process is slowed down.
On the other hand, both of these plants have high water content, which means that they freeze and either become inedible or just die, unless they're protected. So, many gardeners extend the season--both ahead in the spring and behind in the fall--by protecting them when the temperatures get cold (especially at night). You can go pretty 'fancy' as this Extension article explains, but some people use clear plastic milk containers, with the bottoms cut off, or glass cloches (both pictured below). Others just throw some durable cloth over a structure at night, as the third picture shows. Just be sure to remove them on sunny days, because, even in the winter, heat can build up inside, and there will be inadequate water in the soil for the plants to live.
BTW, now is the time to plant garlic, and, if you can find them, carrots that are in the small six-pack containers that haven't been pulled can be planted and eaten next year. Onions are a bit trickier, but the root vegetables stay warm in the soil, and can provide an ongoing supply of food.
Hope this is helpful. Thanks for using the Extension resources, including Ask an Expert! Good luck!
Thanks so much for your quick response with lots of detailed great info!!