Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Fall Veggie Gardening

(Warning, this is a gardening 201 post)

As it is heading into the heat of the summer, and your beans are reaching for the sky, the tomatoes are flowering, and the peas are plumping out, you may not be thinking of starting little seedlings but think you could!

There are a number of plants that perform much better when started mid-summer to mature in the fall. These plants are often the ones that are very tricky in spring. Cauliflower, for example, should be started on a hot bed, or inside to be planted when temperatures are above 7C but early enough so they won't bolt before forming good sized heads before the hot weather comes in.

Instead, (unless you live in a very mild summer zone), you'll have better results if you save cauliflower for your fall garden. Many of the cold hardy plants can be seeded this way to form bigger, juicier, sweeter results.

Here is a list:

1. Brassicas: short season cabbage, brussel sprouts, kholrabi, broccoli rabe, kale, turnip, chinese cabbage, bok choy, tatsoi etc...

2. Roots: turnip, beets, carrots, salsify (for spring harvest)

3. Greens: spinach, lettuce - heading especially, chicory, mache etc...

4. Other: Second crop of peas, florence fennel

5. Consider even starting a second crop of warm weather crops such as beans, summer squash or corn if your growing season is long enough.

When exactly should you start your fall garden?

Depends on the veggie, but you want to count backwards before your average hard frost date (light frosts will sweeten the flavour of most of these veggies) so that they will mature in cool but not frigid weather.

Okay, Ottawa Gardener, what are you starting?

Even in the same region, all gardens vary because of soil, sun, microclimate etc... but if it counts for anything this is what I have planted already:

Brussel Sprouts, and Kale.

Over the two weeks:

Second crop of carrots and beets
Second crop of peas

In mid-late July:

Florence Fennel
Bok Choy
Fall Broccoli
Broccoli Rabe
Chinese Cabbage
Short Season Cabbage
Various greens


Forget me not (June)
Flowering Kale (early July)
Delphinium (seed in August)

Nursery Bed

Another great reason for a nursery bed (I must make one) is that you can start your seedlings in it and then transplant them to the garden proper once a spot for them opens up such as after harvesting the first carrots, peas or lettuce.

Just 1 more tip:

I am NOT the most experienced veggie gardener in the blogosphere but if you are going to take my advice, then know that most of it comes from being burned in the past. This is my fall gardening tip. Despite what I just wrote above, I tend to split seeding in half, starting one half 2-4 weeks later than the other to allow for unpredictable weather patterns. (If only I remembered this when starting my tender veggies inside. This year, I swear! Half in March, half in April. Repeat after myself, half in...)


Useful graph of vegetable frost tolerances
Useful calculation on days to maturity with 2 weeks 'fall factor'
Master Gardener article on fall gardening

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