It’s tough to imagine but mid to late summer is the time to begin your cool weather fall plants in your garden. But on the flip side, you’ll have more success than when you tried starting seeds in the spring! No way, you say. Yes indeed. Not only is the dirt now warm and toasty, but the insects that ravaged your lettuce and broccoli have morphed into something and flown off or have moved on.
Now you can direct sow into dirt so save time and cost by not having to begin indoors with the expenses of potting soil, trays, pots etc. and same time without needing to transplant in four to six weeks. Of course I’m not talking about melons, corn, squashes, or outside tomatoes here. I am referring to root crops and cool weather crops like lettuce, broccoli, spinach, etc..
As in the spring, prepare your seeding beds before sowing. If you’re following a summer crop that’s done, make sure you add a lot of organic matter into the soil as you operate it, to put back nutrients for your harvest.
Sow the seeds according to directions on the packet and water in. It’s necessary to maintain the seedling bed moist before plants have germinated and are well recognized. I feel that a row cover for example Remay is a fantastic idea. Keeps the dirt and crops a little cooler during the day in addition to keeps the pests out. May eliminate the row cover for pollination purposes or to add mulch around your plants that are established. Speaking of mulch, this is a excellent way to maintain the plant roots cool and retain moisture for the growing plants. Some gardeners offer some shade from sunlight by propping up some planks or maybe a canopy cover to keep the warm summer sun from directly hitting the dirt and “cooking” it. Remember, seeds do not need direct sunlight until once they germinate. The cautioned soil and moisture will do the job.
So when do you sow your seeds for fall crops? Easy! Take the maturity date in the seed package and backtrack the necessary number of days. For instance, leaf lettuce takes 45-60 days typically. Now you know you need to be planting lettuce mid to late August. Successive plantings is the key here. Keep placing a new row every week until Labor Day! Because lettuce can have a light frost if secure, you will most likely get another week or two into November!
Suitable Vegetable Plants for Fall Harvesting
Plant long-term, frost-tolerant veggies together.
Frost-tolerant vegetables include beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, collards, garlic, kale, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsley, spinach and turnips.
Keep in mind the comparative maturity speed, average height (in feet) and frost sensitivity of the harvest of various garden vegetables with FS significance frost-susceptible crops that will be killed or injured by temperatures below 32°F. and FT significance frost-tolerant plants that can withstand temperatures below 32° F.
The rapid (30-60 days) maturing vegetables are: beets FT; bush beans FS; leaf lettuce FT; mustard FT; radishes FT; salmon FT; summer squash FS; turnips FT; and turnip greens FT.
The moderate (60-80 days ) maturing vegetables are: broccoli FT; Chinese cabbage FT; carrots FT; cucumbers FS; corn FS; green onions FT; kohlrabi FT; lima bush beans FS; okra FS; parsley FT; almonds FS; and cherry tomatoes FS.
The slow (80 days or longer) maturing vegetables are: Brussels sprouts FT; bulb onions FT; cabbage FT; cantaloupes FS; cauliflower FT; eggplant FS; garlic FT; Irish potatoes FS; pumpkins FS; sweet potatoes FS; berries FS; watermelon FS; and winter squash FS.
Protections from Frosty Nights
OK, now you’ve got your plants growing nicely. You want some protection from autumn’s early frosty nights. Some people have the ability to maintain a “greens” garden growing through mid winter based on how they protect the plants, accessible sun and soil temperature. In the Pacific Northwest, it’s not unusual for people who reside in the mild marine costal weather patterns, to have the ability to garden almost year round!
When the weather man predicts a frosty evening then the fastest and easiest way to protect a plant overnight is a light cover, such as plastic sheeting, a bed sheet, paper, bubble wrap, or what’s handy. Please remove the cover in the morning so the plants get sun and air flow.
Another cheap way to protect little plants is of course, the milk jug with the bottom cut off. Make certain to push the bottom edges to the dirt a bit to stop cold air from slipping in under.
Mini Solar Greenhouse
Another freebie idea, using lost window panes as a miniature solar greenhouse! I’d throw a sheet of plastic or bed sheet over the entire thing at night in order to keep cold drafts from slipping in and destroying your crop. Again, remove your overnight cover throughout the day to permit circulation. A great idea is to put a small thermometer inside where you can view it so you understand what the daytime temperature is. That way, if the temp is getting too hot, you can eliminate your window pane structure so that your plants do not get cooked!
Another inexpensive but quite worthy thing to have for winter gardening is a cold frame! Since you can not work in your own plant bed from one side where the window or cover is, I’d plan mine to be three feet wide and six feet long. These work great on a raised bed too! For insulation, think about a layer of styrofoam around the inner walls.
Building material can be any wood planks with cedar and redwood being the least likely to need to be replaced in time.
Greenhouses with PVC frame
This previous garden cover is a bit more involved but I found very intriguing. I’d use the greenhouse type of plastic that’s resistant to UV rays as the affordable plastic found in your neighborhood hardware store becomes brittle and cracks into a zillion peices within one year of use but may be used “on the cheap” for one growing season. The PVC frame is attached to a wooden frame by drilled screws, then the plastic is put on and in every corner, the excess plastic is pulled out to a stage and folded back on the frame like a hospital sheet. The plastic is then stapled onto the frame and cover with duct tape for equilibrium. The whole underside is stapled one more time and you’re finished! Lightweight, portable and affordable. Great way to cover a bigger bed. Can be easily lifted by hand for watering or weeding. We use this idea for person “mini greenhouse” for our baby giant pumpkin plants in the spring.
Place some wooden stakes (three or more on each side) around the frame to keep it from being blown off by winds.
Well, there it is. I hope you enjoyed this guide and got a couple of ideas.