Friday, August 30, 2013

Prepping and Planting the Fall Garden.

A few days ago, some of my friends and I were chatting about gardens. (Shocking, I know.) Specifically, I mentioned that I need to clean up the summer garden and prepare it for fall crops.
It's a painful process for me.

I hate tearing out any plant that's still producing, even if emotionally I'm so, so ready to get rid of the uglies and plant perky, happy seedlings. As vile as the vines look, I'm not ready to give up fresh tomatoes. I've pulled a lot of vines, but there are still a few that I'm pampering, hoping to enjoy bruschetta through the fall.

So, instead of ripping out all of the summer plants in August, I prepare for the fall garden by starting seedlings in the greenhouse. Yes, it's probably less time consuming to direct sow lettuce, but by planting seeds in biodegradable pots, I'm extending the summer garden as long as possible while getting a head start on growing produce.

If you're starting seedlings for your garden, you might want to refer to this chart that I put together last fall. It's my cheat sheet that shows when you should plant seeds for your fall garden, depending on your first expected frost date (which you can find here.) It also gives you hints about depth for planting, how long until germination, and when you can expect to harvest your crops. Some seeds, like radishes and carrots, really do need to be direct sowed, though. Still, that's OK—radishes grow quickly and are typically ready to harvest in 28 days. Carrots can remain in the garden throughout most of the winter (mulched with straw in cold climates), harvesting as you need them. In fact, the cooler soil can make the carrots taste sweeter.

Before any plants enter the fall garden, all of the summer debris needs to be cleared—particularly any diseased plant material. A fresh layer of compost will be added to the beds and mixed in well, and I'll do a soil test to check pH and determine any nutrients that are missing for the fall crops.

But the best part of planning the fall garden? Why, selecting what you're going to grow, of course! My friends asked what I planned to grow this fall, but at the time I hadn't selected the varieties. Now, though, the seeds have arrived and are anxiously awaiting their new home! Everything I've ordered is heirloom and organic, and some of the varieties are just ridiculously beautiful. Here's what's going in the fall garden:

Heirloom lettuce
Forellenschluss (My favorite—I love its beautiful speckling, plus it's crispy and delicious.)
Grandpa Admire's (Another favorite that's on Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste.)
Merveille des Quatre Saisons (I just love saying the name in my high school French accent.)
Big Boston
May Queen
Petite Rouge
Red Romaine
Rouge d'Hiver
Chadwick's Rodan

Merlo Nero
Bloomsdale Long Standing
Red Malabar (which isn't spinach, really...but it's a beautiful vining green with red stems, so I'm excited to add it to the garden.)

Chinese Greens
Ching Chang Bok Choy
Chinese Pak Choy

Romanesco Italia

Violetta Italia
Snowball Self-Blanching

Cour di Bue
Tete Noire

Swiss Chard
Five Color Silverbeet

Red Russian
Chinese White Flowered

Blue Podded Blauwschokkers
Golden Sweet Snow
Sugar Ann Snap

Early Scarlet Globe
French Breakfast
Purple Plum
Pink Beauty

Beets (I'm embarrassed to say—I've never grown beets. Can't wait to try these!)
Gourmet Blend

Bleu de Solaise

St. Valery
Cosmic Purple

I'll also grow some Brussels sprouts for Peter, but I'll most likely buy transplants for those. For whatever reason, I have a tough time getting them started from seed, and I have a source locally where I can get organic Brussels sprouts plants.

Oddly absent from our southern garden—collards. I know, I know—how can I be a southern gardener without collards? For whatever reason, we just don't eat collards. Maybe it's my Yankee upbringing coming out. Can anyone give me a good endorsement for collards and why I should try them?

I haven't ordered my garlic and shallots yet—and I need to do that soon. Many varieties of garlic sell out early, so that's definitely on my to-do list. Usually, I dedicate one raised bed to garlic and plant about five varieties. We use a lot of garlic!

Besides planting the beds in the large kitchen garden, I'm starting seedlings for the potager, as well as for some containers. I'm also planning to incorporate some fall edibles into the front gardens. Personally, I've never liked ornamental cabbages, but I find edible combinations, like kale and violas, or the rainbow colors of Swiss chard alone, really beautiful. We'll see how it turns out! I'll keep you posted.

I also need to check my mini hoops from last year to make certain the plastic isn't torn. In our zone 7b garden, these little low tunnels (which cost a whopping $10 for materials) provide enough protection from the cold to keep most of our crops producing throughout the winter. I also cover the potager with plastic when we have a freeze warning, but I already know I need to replace that plastic cover. The fencing gouged big holes in the plastic due to the weight of rain on the cover. (Note to self: remove the plastic before a rain!)

With a little preplanning and preparation, we'll be enjoying lovely harvests from the garden all winter. 

Have you planned your fall garden? What are you most looking forward to growing in the cool weather?

Hope you enjoy a wonderful holiday weekend!




  1. I was wondering what I could plant. Thank you for an informative blog on winter plantings.

    1. You're welcome! I hope your garden is lovely!

  2. Thanks Julie this will be my first fall planting. Being from MI I keep forgetting we can plant all year here. Takes some getting used to and I am so excited. Thanks for the information, you just made things that much easier for me. Have a great weekend!

    1. I know--being from the north, it's such a treat that we can garden all year here in SC! Let me know if you have any questions when you're getting your garden started! Good luck!

  3. We apparently have a bizarrely similar taste in winter crops. Same varieties, etc. in some cases.

    My fall babies are starting up downstairs -- still have to pot them up and get going.

    I'm very curious about your irrigation system, if that's what the pvc is. Can you elaborate. I'm miserably unhappy with ours. . .

    1. You know what they say about great minds...LOL! I've been meaning to write a post about the irrigation system my brilliant husband designed. It's incredible--so easy and inexpensive. I'll try to get it written up, because I know I need to ask him some questions about sizes and such. Thanks for the reminder! (It is PVC. It was really simple, and we installed it in just a few hours.)

  4. wow, I had no idea you could plant Fall/Winter veggies!

    1. Jess, especially in our area, we can grow all year long with a little hoop and cover! Last year was my first time trying it, and we had fresh-from-the-garden produce all winter.

  5. Good planning and well explained, the winter promises great harvests. Congratulations

  6. Wow, what a beautiful shot of your produce and I love all the seed packets. I really don't do any vegetable gardening here as the only appropriate spot would be right in the middle of the front lawn. Doug the lawn guy (my dear husband) would not approve. Every once in a while I'll put some mixed vegetable containers together and they are fun and productive.

    1. Deanne, just convince Doug that you need a beautiful veggie bed right in the middle of the front lawn! ;-) I incorporate some edibles into front beds, but most of our veggie gardens are in the back--primarily because we live surrounded by forest, and our property if incredibly shady. We get the most sun in the back by the river, but even that is not as much as I'd like. Still...I did just harvest three tomatoes when I went to the mailbox. A volunteer popped up in the mailbox flower bed, and I left it for fun. Now, I'm glad I did! :-) Hope you have a lovely weekend!

  7. Julie, I love all of your selections! Lovely post.

    I'm going to have to try some of those purple-podded peas, simply for looks. I've sown lots of lettuces, spinach, peas, beets, and greens in my raised beds in the mountains, but have barely cleared the vegetable beds in the Piedmont of their cloak of crabgrass. Hopefully, I'll get them sown this week. I also have to figure out some woodchuck barriers, too. I'm thinking of using hoops covered with metal fencing. Not pretty, but maybe effective?

  8. I, too, would love to read about your irrigation system if you get the time to post about it! I started my first garden this year in Texas, and I must say I failed at the watering this summer. Hoping for a more productive fall garden.