It’s time to think about fall gardening. Yes, friends…summer is still here with us, but fall is just around the corner. We’d like to take this time to remind you about one very important garden chore for fall – planting your seeds for fall gardening veggies.
As summer draws to a close, your garden may look a bit tired, but it still has plenty of work to do and can keep bringing your family fresh veggies to enjoy all year long. By filling up the space vacated by your spring crops, your garden can keep producing well into the fall, and even into winter.
In the southern areas of America, you’ll want to germinate your seeds in late July or early August for fall gardens full of cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. For colder climates in America, it is time to sow carrots, turnips and beets for the fall.
We realize it is still summer and it is still HOT, HOT, HOT in most areas. This is not the time to start tender seedlings out-of-doors. However, you can start seeds indoors and it will pay off big time as you continue to harvest fresh veggies from your garden, long after the frost has killed your tomatoes and the daily hauls of summer squash and zucchini are a distant memory.
Starting Your Fall Seeds
The first step is to find out your area’s average first fall frost date. You will want to count approximately 12-14 weeks backwards from that frost date to get the right time to start seeds indoors for your fall crops of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and so on. For most of us, this is sometime in late July to early September…depending on your local climate. Do this important step now, mark it on the calendar and begin planning that fall garden today.
Fall crops aren’t as popular with the “big box” gardening stores, so there’s typically not a lot of seed to choose from. That’s why you are best served (like always) by ordering heirloom seeds and starting them yourselves. That’s the only sure way to have healthy, vigorous young seedlings that will grow into thriving plants that will survive the fall and, in some cases, winter climates.
After you begin your seeds indoors, you will want to start hardening them off around 3-4 weeks of age. Do NOT do this on a hot, sunny late summer day. Instead, try to begin the hardening off process on a cloudy or overcast day, or take advantage of a shady porch or spot in the yard that will protect the tender young seedlings from excessive heat and sun.
How late is too late?
The end of July is pushing the deadline for colder climates (Zones 6 and lower) especially if you want to plant cabbage crops. So if that’s you – get started ASAP and order those seeds! Very early August will work too, but you need to have everything ready to go by then.
For the rest of the USDA Zones, August is a perfect seed starting time.
If you miss the deadline to start your seeds indoors, you can try to direct-sow seeds of faster growing fall crops such as broccoli, kale, or kohlrabi. Just make sure you give them the best conditions possible when direct sowing. Keeping the soil moist is a must, and you will want to get your plants up and growing in time to catch the last of the summer sun and heat. If you wait until the weather is too cold and direct sow, you will likely have a less-than-productive crop. Fall crops do need that “late summer” boost of warm sunshine (after they are hardy enough to withstand it as transplants) in order for you to enjoy peak harvests.