The beginning of August brings mixed feelings around our home, as we have wrapped up all things summer and transitioned into the Fall. For the Kids, we have squeezed in last pool trips and school supply shopping. For myself, I’m thinking about how wonderful a steady schedule is going to feel. In the garden, the summer veggies are working hard to finish strong as the days get a little shorter and shorter all the while.
I started thinking about my fall garden and planning my fall wish list last week. A quick look at Baker Creek seed catalog and now I’ve ordered enough fall veggies to feed an army—whoops :). Early to Mid-August here in the Deep South is a great time to go ahead and get your plan in mind that you’d like to plant for the fall. Putting out Fall veggies in the most oppressively hot month of our Summer is not a good idea, but you can go ahead and get some seedlings started to transplant in early to mid-September, and supplement that with small plants from a store. Or just wait on the store and buy them all! Either way works, the important part is to just get growing!
Here are what I have started and will start in the next week or so for the Fall. Just like everything in biology, there’s some wiggle room, so don’t obsess over exact dates, just get started!
Lettuces: These are very easy to grow from seed. You can plant directly in the area you want to harvest from (direct sow), or start seedlings (indoors under lights or in a very sunny window) to set out in early September. I’d suggest purchasing seeds from either a home improvement store, or my favorite seed distributor, Baker Creek Seeds (www.rareseeds.com). I’ve always had great success with their seeds.
1. Seedlings: I have started a few heads of Cos (Romaine) lettuce in seed trays in my garage because it’s our favorite salad base, and we eat a ton of it. I will set out these more mature seedlings in early September to get a head start on our fall garden.
2. Direct Sow: Baker Creek Rocky Top Lettuce mix is great. I like the mix because, well, it’s a mix! Think spring mix type lettuces. You’ll plant these by scattering the seeds along an area of a bed in a small row or two and then lightly covering them with soil. Water it well and wait for the seedlings to pop up! You can thin them out by plucking a few plants out of the space as they grow bigger to allow your favorite ones from the mix to grow bigger. Most of these lettuces are “cut and come again,” which means you’ll cut from around the edges and allow the center of the plant to continue to grow. This type of harvesting will allow you to get lettuce throughout the season.
When to plant: Mid-Late August (inside seedlings); begin direct sow late August-early October
Carrots: Carrots are so fun to harvest. They do take quite a while to grow, so patience is key here. I’ve had good luck with “Cosmic Purple” from www.rareseeds.com, and the Ferry-Morse Rainbow Mix from Lowes. You direct-sow these in a sandy mix (just mix in some sand into your soil) and wait for them to grow. Carrot seeds are small, and I usually end up having to thin them out some when the plants pop up! You can plant 2 phases of carrots to make sure you can spread out the harvest.
When to plant: First planting Late-August; second Planting Mid- September
Broccoli/Cauliflower: I’d suggest buying small plants from the store. To transplant, pull out of its container, loosen up the roots by pulling the dirt a little apart, and putting into your soil as deep as the container it was in. Water well.
When to plant: purchase and transplant late August, Early September.
Cabbage: These follow the same instructions as broccoli. Buy plants from a store, loosen roots, transplant, and water.
When to plant: Late August-Early September
Kale: Kale can be purchased as a plant from a store or grown from seed. If you purchase plants, the same procedure for transplanting should be followed. If you grow from seed, start seedlings now and transplant in early-mid September. I’m trying dinosaur kale this year, and I’m so excited to see how it will turn out.
When to plant: Mid-to-Late August
Herbs: I’m also starting some cilantro and dill to transplant into my herb bed. These plants like cooler weather, so keeping them through the Alabama summer heat is hard to do. I’m hoping the fall planting will allow some harvests before frost. This is a trial run for me on these, so I’ll let you know how they worked out at the end of the season!
When planning your fall garden, it is important to remember the yields from each of your plants. Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are one-hit wonders. You typically get one vegetable harvest per each plant. Kale and Lettuces have continual harvest. Carrots are one-hits too, but they just take up less space! I’m mentioning this because you may want to try broccoli for fun, but you won’t be able to supply your entire broccoli diet from a small bed. However, you may be able to grow enough lettuce and kale to suit your needs for a while. Just something to consider when you organize your plants! With these tips in mind, get out there and get growing! The hardest part for me is overcoming my insecurities and just trying something new!