Everyone, I have great news!
Not everything dies by August!
Kale, cauliflower, lettuce, and a bunch of other cool-weather vegetables actually grow better in the fall. Why don't we take advantage of that instead of deciding that sad, morbid, hopeless winter, devoid of fun and tomatoes, starts in September?
Now is the time to start seeds indoors for cauliflower, lettuce, broccoli, and several other crops that you may want to grow into the fall months. Heirloom varieties are particularly good— they were developed with priorities like taste and nutrition, rather than storage and pest resistance.
If you don't have a fancy seed starting tray like we do, just use yogurt cups. Poke a hole in the bottom and set them all on a tray underneath a fluorescent light. If you don't have plant markers, use what you can find.
As you can see, she is clearly lettuce.
When your seedlings are old enough (the package should specify how long or how large they should be growing), start setting them outside for a few hours each day on a porch or balcony and carrying them in at night. This lets them get used to the outdoor climate so they don't have trouble adjusting to the change in temperature.
Of course, there are tons of other vegetables you can grow easily in your garden. Roots like carrots, beets, and radishes, and greens like spinach, collards, and kale, can be sown directly in the ground.
There are a few tricks you can use to store your produce after the frost. Of course, you have the obvious canning and freezing. Then there are the ways to preserve vegetables without changing the flavor. Cabbages and similar plants can live for a few more weeks if you mulch them heavily with hay. This insulates the soil to slow the temperature drop. Some root vegetables can be packed in dry sand. Experiment and look at other sources, and you'll find out the easiest method for you.
Autumn growing feels very homestead-y. I have my crisp, new, seed packets, the last cucumbers of the season, and, of course, our three very dignified laying hens.
(Yes, that is a real chicken.)
I finish this post with a hint of nostalgia, as the first crisp winds of autumn whisper through the trees and through the feathers of my very dignified laying hen. Summer is still here, and autumn will not come next week, nor the next, nor even the next. But mark my words, it will come.
And when it comes, be ready.