Mid-summer is a good time to contemplate a fall vegetable garden. The worst of the heat is likely over. The days are getting shorter and cooler and the nights longer. Most cool season vegetables do well as a second fall crop when planted in late summer. Cool season crops include greens, lettuce, and the cabbage family, including broccoli and most root vegetables.
Calculate the growing season for the vegetables. Find out the average first date of frost for your area and count backwards to the current date. For example, if today is July 15th and the average first frost date is October 15, then the growing season you have remaining is 90 days.
Choose cool season vegetables that will be mature in the remaining growing season. Broccoli is a cool season crop with 80 to 95 days to maturity. In the example above, you'd lose the crop. Plant early maturing varieties.
Select crops that can be harvested early. Leaf lettuces, spinach, chard and kale can all be harvested long before the maturity dates. Snip off the leaves with scissors as soon as they're 4-inches long. Leave at least half of the plant to keep growing. Root crops like carrots, beets, parsnips and turnips can be harvested when they're very small.
Order plants from a reliable source with a money-back guarantee. If the plants don't arrive in time, if they are damaged or if the order is wrong, you won't be out the money.
Ask if the plants are fresh or leftover from earlier in the season. Ideally, you want transplants that were started no more than four to six weeks earlier, not leftovers from early spring that have had to struggle through the summer.
Find out the actual size of the plants. Don't rely on the photographs. The size should be stated as a pot size, such as 2-inch pots, 6-inch pots or 1-gallon pots. The size of the plant is relative to the size of the pot. The bigger the plant, the sooner you will be able to harvest.