by Paul James
If I had only one season in which to plant a vegetable garden, it would be fall. No doubt about it. And the reason is simple: vegetables harvested in the fall taste better. No doubt about that either.
And just what will I be planting? Well pretty much everything I plant every spring, with the exception of asparagus, and that’s a long list, one that I now present in alphabetical order, with an asterisk indicating those that I plant as transplants. All others I direct sow in the garden from seed.
Planting veggies in the fall is a tad tricky, because everything on my list is a cool-season crop, yet it’s anything but cool this time of year. And it’s not just the air temperature that presents a problem – it’s the soil temp as well. So here’s what you need to do to ensure a successful fall planting.
1. Wait until at least the middle of August to plant, and make successive sowings into mid-September.
2. Plant seeds and transplants late in the day, so they aren’t subjected to the hot sun immediately after planting, or wait for an overcast day to plant.
3. Plant seeds roughly twice as deep as you would in spring (check the seed packet for planting depth). It may take them longer to germinate, but they’ll be fine.
4. Water every morning and again every night to keep the seeds as cool as possible. (And if you can, run home at lunch and water some more.)Water just enough to keep the top inch or so of soil moist and cool. If you’ve got a drip irrigation system, good for you. Follow the same schedule.
5. Spread a light layer of mulch over the planting area to conserve moisture. Grass clippings work great, as do hay or compost.
6. As seeds begin to germinate, increase the amount of water, but continue to water both day and night until plants are established and temperatures begin to cool off a bit, then water only as needed.
Do all that, and you should have plenty of tasty veggies to enjoy for weeks on end. And don’t worry too much about frosts. Everything on my list is not only frost tolerant (down to about 27 degrees or so), but their flavor actually improves when they get nipped by frost (the plants produce more sugars in response to colder temperatures). In fact, I’ve harvested carrots and spinach and beets and kale on Christmas morning many a year, and that’s about as good a present as I could hope for.