foid
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Location: Centereach, NY - Zone 7a

Dealing with cool crops in warm weather

Hi! I'm new to gardening this year and I had a few setbacks that have delayed sowing outdoors. I live in New York and I'm in zone 7a. The temperatures for the next few weeks are forecast to be highs of 70° and lows of 50°. This is the weather forecast for the next 10 days. I have some questions about dealing with cool crops in this weather.

I have some lettuce and radishes already growing in containers. The radishes are doing great and the Johnny's lettuce mix is doing great and is almost ready for harvesting. The butterhead has sprouted but has slow growth. Is there anything I should be doing to help these crops along? Should I leave them out in full sun, put them under the table for partial sun or put them under an umbrella/on the covered porch for some shade? Also, do these crops need to be fertilized? They were planted in Miracle Gro Moisture Control potting mix.

I was also wondering if I could still plant cool weather crops, specifically beets, kohlrabi, broccoli raab and other lettuce. I have lots of butterhead seeds, lettuce mix seeds and Parris Island romaine. Can I still plant these crops or will they suffer with the heat? I don't care all that much about the beets and additional lettuce, but I would really love to plant the broccoli raab and kohlrabi. If I can't plant them now, can I plant them in the fall?

I'm also confused about planting in the fall. For example, from what I've read about beets, you can plant them in the fall 10 weeks before the first frost. The first frost for my area is around October 21st, so that means planting the beets around August 12th. That is pretty much the hottest time of the year. How can it be that it is too late to plant them now, but planting them during the hottest time of the summer would be okay?

Thanks for any advice, I really appreciate it!

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brooksms
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Location: 7b Central NC

Re: Dealing with cool crops in warm weather

I'm in zone 7 as well and we're getting almost 80° temps this week! My poor loose leaf lettuce (in a box on my deck rail) does not like it. I have one raised bed currently dedicated to cooler weather crops and it is shaded using a white sheet tied to wood stakes in the corners. I took my rail box and put it in an empty spot in the raised bed. It seems to work! I've even had iceberg spring back after leaves got burned before the sheet setup. I guess the umbrella could do a similar thing but it depends on how sheer the fabric is. You don't want to block out too much sun. For lettuce, I wouldn't worry too much unless it's above 70° though. I've noticed big boston and little gem lettuce seem to be somewhat more heat resistant. I haven't read much about the other crops you're interested in but check out www.smartgardener.com for planting times. When I added beets to my summer garden plan, it had a pop up saying that crop needs a certain number of cool weather days and it didn't fit with the growing season I was planning. Very helpful!

I don't know anything about the potting mix you're using but I'm assuming the fertilizer is mixed in already. You might be able to read more about it on the miracle gro website or contact the company to ask if additional fertilizer is needed. Adding a layer of compost to the top of the soil might help.

Taiji
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Location: Gardening in western U.P. of MI. 46+ N. lat. elev 1540. zone 3

Re: Dealing with cool crops in warm weather

I've found I have my best success with the cool weather crops when planted in mid to late summer too. I know it sounds crazy. I think one reason it works for me is that the stuff sprouts much faster in the heat and creates true leaves and grows faster as well. That means it more easily outgrows insect pests, they just can't keep up with it. I think too, at least for me around here, in midsummer there are fewer of the type of insects that are feeding heavily in the spring. For example, right now I am fighting to keep some beets going. Temperatures are great, but I keep having to replace the little seedlings cause the pests especially like beets. Not sure who the culprits are, this happens every year. As fast as they eat them, I replant, hopefully I'll win eventually I don't know!

Maybe the most important factor is not when the cool weather stuff is planted, but how mild the temps are when they are approaching harvest time?
I've had my best kale, beets, lettuce, turnips etc, when planted mid to late summer. The kale overwinters great too.
I would love to plant corn mid summer too, but there just isn't enough time left for it to mature before frost. It's a struggle every year to save the corn seedlings too from whatever insect it is that's eatin them! I love planting the corn but I dread it too, cause I know what I'm gonna be up against!

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Dealing with cool crops in warm weather

Shade will help your cool weather crops keep going a little longer, particularly shade from hot afternoon sun. But ultimately they will still bolt.

You can plant them in August, because you are planting seed. The seed handles warmth much better than the plant. And the young plant handles it better than the more mature plant, because what the heat does is make it go to maturity too fast, flower and set seed. A baby seedling isn't going to do that no matter what. By the time the plant is getting towards mature size, the fall weather, presumably, will be cooling down.

Actually for some of the cool weather crops, particularly spinach and broccoli, I have found for me the absolute best time to plant the seed is well in to fall, like mid-Oct. The seeds will sprout then and get a few inches high and then go dormant and over winter. In late winter, once the days are getting longer and the worst weather is past, they will start growing again. By the time I would usually plant them in spring, I will be harvesting the fall sown ones. Then the fall sown ones just keep going and bolt about the same time as the spring sown ones, whent the weather warms up, so it has a much longer harvest time. The spinach gets way bigger and lusher than the spring sown spinach. My window of spring between when the ground can be worked and the spinach seed planted and when it gets too warmfor it is pretty small. That's why fall planting works so much better.
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Taiji
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Location: Gardening in western U.P. of MI. 46+ N. lat. elev 1540. zone 3

Re: Dealing with cool crops in warm weather

That's interesting. I wonder if cabbage would overwinter similar to how the broccoli would. Think I'll try some later planting too this year.

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