When most people think about the vegetable garden, they immediately think of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, etc. The love the heat and humidity of summer, but fade around September. That’s when you want to start thinking about cool-weather vegetables, including lettuces, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and other vegetables that thrive as the temperatures start to drop.

Planted now, you will have a steady harvest into late fall and, in some cases, right up to Christmas. Then, come March, you repeat the process again, planting cool-weather crops until it is time to plant the summer garden in May.

You’ll want to plant your seeds now in seedling trays to transfer into the garden as they get bigger or, if you have the room now, direct-sow the seeds into the soil. There are a couple of things that you have to consider when planting cool-weather vegetables.

First, remember to keep up with the watering. It is still hot, so your plants will dry out quickly, especially in containers and raised beds. And, cool-weather vegetables tend to have shallower roots than other vegetables, so they need to be watered relatively frequently. Shredded leaves, once they begin to fall, make a fantastic mulch in the vegetable garden, keeping the moisture from evaporating and adding organic material to the soil as it slowly breaks down.

And, as summer fades to a memory, it is easy to forget that there is still an army of critters who will nibble at your vegetables until the leaves are literally skeletal remains. Cabbageworm, the Cabbage Looper, Beet Armyworm, and myriad nasty little munchers can make quick work of your garden in just a few days. K&B True Value offers many organic solutions, such as insecticidal soaps, that are perfectly safe for humans, yet keep the critters away. It is extremely important to examine your plants, especially under the leaves, every few days. Because when pests strike, they move very fast!

When it comes to frosts, you should be okay right up through the holiday season, since we don’t generally get a hard frost until late December or early January. Not only do cool-weather vegetables shrug off light to moderate frosts, but they actually improve their flavor. If a hard frost is on its way, covering your gardens with a light sheet or frost blanket will keep them safe from damage.

If you like fresh romaine lettuce, roasted cauliflower, or a hearty broccoli casserole, you have to give cool-weather gardening a shot. In many respects, it is easier than summer gardening, as you have fewer problems with weeds and pests are easier to contain. If you think about it, with two cool-weather seasons and a summer season, you can keep your vegetable garden productive for most of the year!