Tag Archives: fall gardening

3 Reasons to Transplant Lettuce

Lettuce is a perfect crop for cool season gardening. The incredible array of varieties brings a colorful assortment to fall, winter, and spring meals. As you’re planting your fall crops there are a number of lettuces to choose from. You can sow loose leaf mixes, romaine, bibb, or crisphead lettuce. If you’re growing a heading variety you may want to consider starting your lettuce indoors and transplanting seedlings out.

  1. Better germination.

    Starting a fall garden often means seeding cool weather crops in hot weather. Starting seeds indoors, in a cool place typically means better germination rates. Lettuce doesn’t need light to germinate so you can set them in a basement or root cellar even if it’s dark until they germinate. Alternatively you can set them in the refrigerator for the first night.

  2. No wasted space.

    Having reliable, healthy seedlings means you waste less space in your garden. When you’re planting a fall garden you’re often dealing with restricted space, only planting what you have a cold frames, row cover, or a hoop house to protect. You also have a relatively small window to get crops started. Setting out transplants means that you can make the most of every square in of your garden. You won’t have patches where seed failed to germinate as we discussed above.

  3. More time.

    Having transplants started also means that that you have a little more leeway for when you plant. It’s essential to get fall crops started on time so that they get established before the temperatures drop.

 

Growing Transplants

Start your lettuce in flats or soil blocks of moist, quality potting mix. Keep them somewhere cool at least until they germinate. Once germinated your lettuce should be placed under lights or somewhere they get direct sunlight. Lettuce should be transplanted when the plants are between 2-3 inches tall.

Transplanting

You should harden off your lettuce plants 7-10 days before transplanting. Bring them outdoors for a few hours, increasing the length of time each day. Prepare your bed by loosening the soil and adding compost if available.

Plant your lettuce at the same depth as they were in the pot. Even if they’re leggy, don’t bury the stem. Lettuce stems won’t grow roots like tomatoes and some other plants. Water them in after planting and keep the soil moist especially as they get established. Be sure to have your season extenders ready to go in case of frost.

 

August Planting

August is generally thought of as harvest season. Many gardeners are busy canning tomatoes, curing winter squash, and trying to figure out exactly how to use all that zucchini. No matter where you live you can also plant in Agust. Exactly what you can plant when varies depending on your climate.

Below you’ll find a few great varieties for August planting. To find out more specific about your climate and when you should plant check out The Farmer’s Almanac First and Last Frost Date Calculator, our post Everything You Need to Know About Plant Hardiness Zones, or this handy Frost Zone Map from The Spruce.

Tatsoi Mustard

Cool Climates

In cool climates, August planting can be a challenge. Your area may still be experiencing hot temperatures but won’t be for very long. You’ll need to select varieties with short seasons and some cold tolerance. If it’s still hot in your area these cool-season crops may need extra care to germinate and get started. Be sure to keep them moist and use shade cloth and/or mulch to keep the soil cool if needed. Those in cool climates may also want to consider some form of season extension which is discussed later in this post. Here are just a few good varieties to plant this August.

American Purple Top Yellow Rutabaga

Warm Climates

Those who live in warmer climates (especially zone 8 and farther south) will be able to plant more heat-loving vegetables in August than you could further north. However, some fall crops like spinach and radishes that are great for cool climates will have trouble germinating in the heat and may need to be planted later. Here are just a few good varieties to plant this August.

Other Plants

There are many other varieties that can be planted in August. Root crops like carrots, beets, turnips and rutabagas are all great choices. You can also look at cold hardy brassicas and greens.

You can also plant or begin planning to add perennials to your garden. Perennials like fruit trees and rhubarb transplants are an excellent way to add to your garden this fall. They should be planted several weeks before the ground freezes so they can get established. Be sure too keep them watered even though it’s cool.

Season Extension

August is also a good time to think about season extension. You’ll be able to grow crops farther into the winter if you can provide them some protection. Depending on your budget you may consider setting up cold frames, low tunnels, or even a hoop house. Cold frames and low tunnels tend to be the quickest and most budget-friendly options. Cold frames can be made from simple materials and like straw bales and old windows and may help you grow cold-hardy greens right through the winter.

Easy Season Extension For Fall

A gardener’s work is never done! Keep planting this August with a few of these awesome varieties.

 

Fall Harvest: Plants that are Sweeter After a Frost

Fall gardens are generally touted as being a great way to get another harvest out of a small garden. They’re great for a few other reasons too. Fall is a wonderful time to work in the garden as the heat and humidity lessens. There’s also generally less pest pressure in the fall, meaning you might still get to put up some sauerkraut even if cabbage moths attacked your spring cabbage crop. A lesser discussed benefit is that some fall crops actually become sweeter after a frost.

Why are plants sweeter after a frost?

Unlike animals, vegetables can’t move south for winter, find a cozy den, or grow and extra thick coat. To survive the cold, certain plants have evolved a way to cope with colder temperatures. First, the plants’ cell walls thicken. These thicker walls contain less moisture and freeze less easily. The other part of this process, is the one that we as gardeners relish, the plants convert more of their starches to sugar. This has several benefits. Using the sugar produces energy, in effect, keeping the plant warmer. The sugar also decreases the formation of ice in the cell and prevents the cell membrane from freezing. This process is good for the plant and tasty for the gardener!

What plants do this?

Brassicas (Cabbage Family)

  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Kohlrabi
  • Collards

These plants thrive in cool temperatures making them ideal for fall planting. They can withstand temperatures down to 20°F and some like burssels sprouts can withstand much colder (down to 0°F). Row cover can be used to extend the season further and protect crops from damaging cold winds.

Carrots & Beets

Both beets and carrots benefit from a layer of mulch around their tops in cold weather. In southern climates, these roots can be left in the ground over winter and harvested as needed. To protect the tops for eating beet greens or to keep them growing you may need to use row cover or a cold frame to protect them during consistently cold temperatures.

Turnips & Rutabagas

Turnips and rutabagas are vastly sweetened by cold temperatures. Rutabagas should be harvested before temperatures drop to 20°F but turnips can handle colder temperatures particularly if they’ve been covered in a thick layer of mulch.

Leeks

In many areas, leeks can be overwintered and survive temperatures down to 10°F. If you’re harvesting leeks from frozen ground our friend Pam Dawling recommends pouring boiling water on the base of the plants if you’re harvesting a few for immediate use.

Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is fairly cold-hardy but it does best with some protection particularly if you live in an area with strong winds. To prolong your chard harvest use row cover or a cold frame. We’ve found Ruby Red Swiss Chard to be more frost tolerant than other varieties.

After a long summer it can be difficult to find the time and motivation to sow a fall garden. It really is worth it though! Plant a few of these crops for a sweet fall harvest.