July is a wonderful month to start harvesting the fruits of your labor. Cucumbers, Tomatoes, and berries are abundant. But did you realize that it is the best time to start thinking about planting your fall garden? How does picking broccoli, turnips, and spinach sound in October?
Why sow your own seeds? From an economic reason, a package of organic seeds cost about $3 whereas a single plant can cost $4.00. I store my seeds in my refrigerator year after year. (See here as to the storage life of certain seeds.)
Even if the cost doesn’t dissuade you, watching a seed turn into a thriving plant is so rewarding. Get your kids involved to tend and watch the seedlings grow. To be honest, the whole cycle still amazes me.
Good places to source organic seeds are Heirloom seeds, Seeds of Change, and Bountiful Gardens. When buying seeds, opt for seeds that mature quickly. My rule of thumb is to add on 14 additional days to the maturity date due to less light in the fall.
In New Jersey, my frost date is October 15. In the beginning to middle of the July, I sow broccoli, peas, beets, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and turnips seeds indoors in peat pots. If you are pressed for time or just want to grow established plants, many of the local gardening centers will be carry some of the plants in August to September. Last year, I totally missed my fall sowing date, and bought peas, broccoli, Swiss chard, and cabbage to plant in the fall garden.
When the seedlings are about three weeks old, start the hardening off process to get them acclimated to outdoors. Be sure to plant in a sunny area. As fall approaches, areas of your summer garden might start to get shadier quicker. Consequently, the plants grow even slower than they normally do in the fall.
Don’t be surprised if your plants over-winter. In New Jersey, due to the mild winter, my Swiss chard, collard greens, and broccoli survived. However, they all went to flower immediately once the weather started to heat up. My kale has returned over and over again each year. It is a bi-annual plant where it flowers in the second year and baby kale show up all over your garden. (Yes, the gift that keeps on giving.)
Love Garlic? Plant in the Fall.
Fall is also a great time to plant garlic for next year’s harvest. (Watch both my videos on how to plant and harvest garlic.) Last year, I purchased organic large garlic cloves from Grey Duck Garlic. (Cloves can be purchased starting in July.) I plant mine right after frost date.
If you can wait two years for a garlic yield, you can purchase the garlic bubblets from Sand Hill Preservation. Bubblets are garlic seeds. They are significantly cheaper than garlic cloves.
My first try at growing garlic was using bubblets. It was fun to watch them grow. I could have easily used some of my large cloves from my first batch to grow next year’s garlic. However, I decided to grow elephant size garlic instead. The picture above is my garlic as of the end of June.
Depending on your growing season, fall gardening can be enormously fun since the bug pressure subsides and the weather cools down. So, extend your growing season and start sowing your fall seeds now.
Anna Hackman is a mom of four boys, who think clothes belong on the floor. As a refuge from all the testosterone in the house, she blogs at Green Talk, a green living website, which includes such topics as green living, green building, organic gardening, recycling, and green business. Additionally, she is a green building and sustainability consultant and helps businesses become leaner and greener. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.