Getting Ready for Fall

The last of the tomato plants went to the compost pile last week. Bell peppers are still producing, but the other summer veggies are gone. Time to start my fall/winter garden.

Experience helps. Wisdom accumulates with each new season. Lessons learned last year resulted in a few changes this year.

I need to plant fall crops earlier. Timing is tricky. Too early and tender seedlings fry in the heat. Too late and the harvest is either delayed by several months or destroyed by a hard freeze.

Starting seeds indoors is essential. Keeping seedlings from outgrowing containers before the weather cooperates is the challenge. I’m using peat pots and over-sized six packs which will hopefully do the trick.

Ideally, plants should go in the ground in time to harvest by early December. Days-to-harvest estimates on seed packets for my 2023/2024 selections range from 45 days for lettuce, mustard greens and peas to 85 days for Brussels sprouts.

For fall planting, the days-to-harvest estimates are way off. I suspect they work fine for spring planting when days are getting longer. In the fall, growth slows or stops entirely as days get shorter.

I dusted off my seed-starting setup last week and now have a bit more than two flats under lights. The first round focuses on varieties with the longest days-to-harvest: 60 to 85 days. Everything planted (Brussels sprouts, collards, broccoli, cabbage, and Swiss chard) has already sprouted.

In previous years, even with “permanent” markers, labels faded or were destroyed by a certain chi-weenie puppy. New labels in a variety of colors and “extreme” permanent markers should help. The chi-weenie problem won’t be an issue until right before planting when the flats go outside to acclimate.

So far, so good. Seedlings are up earlier than in previous years with lovely, long-lasting (fingers-crossed) labels. Should the ink fade, I noted which color goes with each variety. Whether or not Tootsie will cooperate remains to be seen. As always, I’ll keep you posted.