September has arrived and is always full of surprises. Many associate this time of year with going back to school, the end of the summer heat (unless you live in a desert like me, then don’t hold your breath), and one of America’s favorite past times: apple picking. While many might associate planting with the spring, September presents an excellent opportunity for gardeners and farmers across the United States to sow crops that thrive in the fall and winter months. One of the things our country is known for is the diversity of climates. That means if I’m going to give my best advice, I have to talk about each region of the country in order to best recommend crops to plant. So, without further ado, let’s begin with the North.
In the Northeast, where the crisp air of autumn starts to make its presence felt, September is an ideal time to sow cool-season crops. Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, and kale flourish in these cooler temperatures. Their growth is unhindered by the absence of extreme heat, and they are less susceptible to bolting – the premature flowering that can make leafy greens taste bitter. Root vegetables such as carrots, radishes, and beets are also great options. Their development is slower in the cooler weather, resulting in sweeter and more flavorful produce.
In the Southern US, September is a period of transition from scorching summers to milder fall weather. This is the time to consider crops that can tolerate the lingering warmth while preparing for cooler days. Planting tomatoes for a second harvest, especially cherry tomatoes, can be a rewarding choice. Additionally, Southern gardeners can opt for herbs like basil and cilantro, which can thrive in the warm climate a bit longer. Peppers, both sweet and hot varieties, also have time to mature before the arrival of frost.
The Midwest experiences a range of climates, but generally, September marks the beginning of a gradual cool-down. Brassicas, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, are excellent selections for this region. The cooler temperatures enhance their flavor and texture. Additionally, midwestern gardeners can consider planting garlic in September. By doing so, the cloves have time to establish roots before winter, resulting in larger and more flavorful bulbs come spring.
In the western part of the US, where the climate varies greatly from coastal areas to mountainous regions, September can still offer suitable conditions for planting certain crops. Coastal regions can take advantage of the mild temperatures to plant crops like lettuce, chard, and peas. Inland and higher-elevation areas might consider cool-season crops similar to those in the Northeast, such as kale, spinach, and radishes. Additionally, herbs like rosemary and thyme can be planted in the West during September, benefiting from the remaining warmth while establishing their roots.
The Southwestern US often experiences prolonged warm weather, making September a prime time for planting heat-loving crops that can flourish until the first frost. Crops like okra, eggplant, and melons can continue to thrive during this period. Additionally, consider planting quick-growing crops like arugula and mustard greens, which can provide fast yields before winter arrives.
As September beckons, the opportunity to extend the growing season and enjoy a rich harvest remains open for many people. Understanding the unique climatic conditions of your area is key to selecting the best crops to plant in September. Whether you're in the Northeast, South, Midwest, West, or Southwest, there are crops that can thrive and offer delicious rewards. By tailoring your choices to your specific region, you can make the most of the changing seasons and enjoy the satisfaction of nurturing plants through the fall and winter months.