Have you ever wondered about fall vegetable planting in Canada? There are several plants you can start in July/August and still get a delicious harvest. Let’s look at the different options for fall planting in Canada.
If you are new to this blog my name is Ashley and I am a soil scientist. I am located in a Canadian Zone 3 and a USDA Zone 4. I write articles, make YouTube videos, Instagram & Facebook posts all designed for Canadians and Cold Climate gardeners using science-based methods. If you are looking for anything specific be sure to let me know in the comments down below.
I am in Zone 3 Saskatoon, SK and last year I noticed some unharvested Kale & Swiss Chard surviving in a snow pile despite multiple touches of frost. This motivated me to look into other crops that can be grown in a climate that seemingly only gets one harvest.
The quick answer on what can be planted in July/August in a Canadian Zone 3 or higher is:
- Mustard greens
- Salad greens (not heads)
- Napa Cabbage
- Chinese broccoli
- pea shoots
- Bok Choy
- Yau Choy
- Gai Choy
- Chinese Celery
- Water Spinach
- Amaranth Greens
- Kale Swiss Chard
- Baby Carrots
- Baby Potatoes
- Cover Crops
Look At The Days To Harvest
The reality is this list is longer than what you see here. My selection process is simple and involves looking at the days to harvest. I am aiming for anything under 50 days to harvest for July planted crops. For August planted crops I want anything 30 days to harvest or less. I did several videos on GDD & GDU which is important to understand why I am going for these days specifically. For fall vegetable planting in Canada, this is important but is important for the spring as well.
Start In Seed Trays
This can be done in any month of the year and can get you a head start on those July and august seeds. In most cases, I will start what is considered a “wave” once every two weeks for a continual harvest of greens. The best way to plan for this is first to plan for how much lettuce you need per week and times by two. For my house, it comes out to around ten plants for two weeks. Now every two weeks sow 15 seeds and transplant them as needed.
This will help ensure a continuous harvest all summer long and well into the fall. Lettuce does not do well without some form of cover during frost. If there is a sign that frost is headed in your direction wet the plant and place an old milk jug, pop bottle or anything of that nature over top of the plant.
Intercrop Before Harvest
There are many crops that we sow in the fall or early spring that tend to be finished mid-summer. These could include garlic, potatoes, beets, radish, and turnips, the list is endless. Around 3-4 weeks before these plants are ready to harvest consider sowing new seeds. The protection from adult plants will help ensure germination and healthy seedlings.
Harvest the first crop and leave the intercropped seedlings in place to continue growing. You can continue this process throughout the entire season until the first frost. Another option would be to seed crops between now taller plants such as tomatoes. This will help fill in space that would otherwise be meant for weeds.
First on the list is radish. This is one vegetable that does mediocre when stored long-term. So having a continuous supply is going to be important. With only a 30-day turnaround time you may be able to get up to two crops still.
One important hack for getting the best results is intercropping the radish seeds with a crop that has almost run its course. This means once the other crop is ready to harvest and remove the radish crop will be well on its way. The shelter from larger plants will help with germination as it increases the ambient humidity.
This is specific to the leafy green, not the lettuce heads. Heads of lettuce need somewhere around 60 ish days to mature and do not like heat. If you wanted to do heads of lettuce I would encourage you to plant these early spring indoors to beat the heat. For planting in July you want to use the salad greens. This can range from arugula to the pretty purple lettuce. These will germinate in the heat and continue to grow without bolting despite the heat.
These are often used in stir fry’s and can be easily frozen for future use. The selection here is endless and includes:
- Napa Cabbage,
- Chinese broccoli,
- pea shoots,
- Bok Choy,
- Yau Choy,
- Gai Choy,
- Chinese Celery,
- Water Spinach,
- Amaranth Greens
These can be started directly in the soil or started in seed starting cells and transplanted outside after. The key with these plants is you want to avoid placing them in direct sun or high heat. They are prone to bolting in high heat and need to be watched carefully during heat waves. The turnaround time on these is so quick you could plant these even into August.
Spinach, Kale & Swiss Chard
These plants will survive even if the first couple of frosts are uncovered. Last year my Kale was still growing despite being covered in a healthy dose of soil. These again can be intercropped with a soon-to-be-finished garlic stand or started in cells and transplanted. To ensure a harvest low into the fall simply harvest from the bottom of the plant and work your way up. If you invest in a low tunnel or cold frame you may be able to extend your season well into late October.
Turnips, Beets, Kohlrabi & Baby Carrots
The classic root vegetables are quick to harvest. This is especially true if you want to enjoy baby beets, carrots and turnips. The harvest portion of the plant is in the soil and therefore the crop can again survive colder conditions. The warm soil in July will ensure a faster germination rate to help give the plant a head start.
Starting beets and turnips in cells and transplanting them at a later date is an awesome way to “thin” without destroying seedlings. This will help ensure a large root formation without the hassle of going back into the garden.
This is going to come down to the variety & the end product desires. You want to aim for the shortest number of days to harvest as humanly possible. This means the fancy purple potatoes or exotic fingerling species are out of scope. Go for the classic russets or Yukon varieties to ensure speedy growth.
The reality is you will not be getting big potatoes but you can get the more expensive Boushie experience of mini potatoes. There can be allowed to grow until the first frost hits because the potatoes are covered by soil. This means there is no threat of damage to the edible bits.
When in doubt at a minimum cover your soil with something. Empty soil slowly loses microbe activity and is exposed to erosion. This ultimately means nutrient loss and potential compaction issues in the future. To help avoid this plant a cover crop in the spaces where things planted in the spring are starting to be spent.
Cover crops can range from wheat, rye, legumes and the list goes on. The key here is that the seeds are inexpensive and can be purchased in large quantities. You will simply broadcast these seeds on the soil surface similar to grass seeds. Water as you normally would and then let mother nature take care of the rest. For added benefits allow the crop to start in place through the winter months and remove in the spring.
There for have it! A guide on what to plant for fall vegetables in Canada. Let me know in the comments below what you like to plant in July and which zone you are in.