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Fall Gardening: Let’s Get Started!

Posted Jul 11 2011 11:39am

It’s hard to believe it’s time to start thinking about cool weather crops, especially since it’s 105 outside and we’re under a heat advisory, but now is the time.  For those of us planning a fall/winter garden we are actually down to the wire on deciding what we want to grow, picking up seeds and sowing them (indoors). 

If you’re purchasing plants or sowing seeds directly into your garden you have a little more time, but you might enjoy plotting out your garden and dreaming of cooler temps and the crisp tasty veggies that come with them as a way to help beat the heat :)  

What to plant: leafy greens including frost-resistant spinach, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, herbs, garlic and onions.  The garlic and onions should be planted later once the soil has cooled so be sure to space for them when planning.

When to plant:  The easiest way to determine when to plant is to find the average frost date for your area then count backwards 12-14 weeks.  That’s when you should start planting your seeds.  For many of us, this is now.  If you’re planning to purchase plants vs seeds you have a little more time, but you want to make sure you get them in the ground in time to benefit from the last of the summer warmth – usually late Julyto mid-August depending on the area.  Considering planting varieties you’d like to see produce all season in waves.  A few broccoli plants week 1, a few more week 2 and a few more week 3.  This will ensure all your broccoli doesn’t mature at once leaving you with one big crop and nothing the rest of the season.

Seed Health:  If you start your seeds indoors be sure to slowly introduce them to the heat over the course of a week.  Each day expose them to a little more direct sunlight so they will slowly adjust.  Once planted be sure to keep them well watered in the end of summer heat.  If you’re sowing directly into the garden, you will need to keep your soil moist.  Dry soil can slow down the growth process and even prevent a crop from growing all together.  Consider putting in some stakes and stretching an old sheet or other shade source over your garden.  This will help keep the soil from drying out in the hot sun.  A well placed sheet can also serve to extend the growing season of frost sensitive crops by keeping the frost off the plants. 

Below are a few links to helpful resources I turn to when planning my garden.

Seeds of Change (certified organic seeds and plants, as well as gardening tools and information)

Burpee Gardens (great organic selection of seeds and plants, they will ship temperature sensitive varities at the appropriate time based on your location)

Farmer’s Almanac  (use this site to identify the average frost date for your area)

If you aren’t planning a fall garden, August is a great time to plant a cover crop like buckwheat.  These plants will provide a cooling ground cover until the first frost.  Once the frost hits, cut them down and leave them lying on the ground.  They will begin to breakdown and help build nutrient rich soil. 

Are you planning a fall garden?  When are you getting started and what are you planting?

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