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Onen Markeson/Master Gardener: Getting the most from that second crop

Seeds are such wonders and carry such a diverse strategy to maturity.

Even here in northern Minnesota, we have a good variety of plant options for a late or second crop in our vegetable gardens. Using different plant choices and strategy, we can find something to plant up until about six weeks before the first fall frost (but you will have to wait until next year for some of those tasty additions to your plate).

The basics for finding second crop options are relatively simple — look at the length of time until harvest on a package of seeds, and see if you can harvest it before the normal, first killing frost in the fall. Some vegetables prefer cooler weather, and that can be a benefit for planting them a little after the Fourth of July, as well as fairly early in the spring. Radishes are one of my wife’s favorite snack foods. Some smaller radishes can be harvested in as little as 25 days from planting.

Carrots also have a relatively short time to harvest; one package of Bolero seeds I have says it can be harvested about 70 days after planting and can be planted continuously from as early as April up through early July. For carrots to germinate, they do have to be kept fairly moist, so frequent watering during a dry July would be helpful.

A package of Sugar Snap peas indicates they can be harvested about 58 days after planting. A word of caution, they do not fare as well in warm temperatures, so the first planting should be very early, with perhaps a second planting just two weeks or so after, then another planting in perhaps early to mid-July so (with a little luck) they can be harvested before the first fall frost.

Beets can be planted four or five weeks before the average last spring frost, and can survive a mild frost; one package I have indicates it can be harvested in 55 days. Beets can then be planted again in early to mid-July.

Everyone has their favorite lettuce variety, and they all have a variety of maturation days. One of my favorites has about 50 days until harvest and another has 65. A bonus is that most lettuces like cool weather and do quite well after a hard frost or two in the fall. Kale is a crop I have not grown, but this also appears to be quite hearty through some hard frosts.

A late fall planting I have grown to like is garlic. Northern Minnesota is a marginal climate to plant some varieties of garlic, and some will do better with some mulch, such as straw. I did run across one variety lately that is called "Siberian Garlic" that reportedly lives up to its name. Garlic can be planted about six weeks before the first fall frosts (generally mid to late September in Northern Minnesota), and then harvested in the late spring to early summer of the following year. I like to keep a modest amount for planting in the fall again for a new and cheaper cycle of this tasty crop.

To find reliable information about gardening and other horticultural topics, go to the University of Minnesota Extension website www.>. Local master gardeners will answer your gardening questions via a voicemail service. Call 444-7916, leaving your phone number, name and the nature of your question.