It seems like we just got started with our summer succession plantings,
laid out the drip irrigation and finished mulching everything in sight, but
it’s already time to start planting our Fall
and Winter garden, even if it is 105°F degrees! We’re sowing broccoli,
cabbage, kale and other brassicas that will mature in the cool fall weather. If
we want to have a glorious second spring in September that carries us through
the holidays, into winter and on, not stopping until after spring crops are
producing “baby greens,” then we need to start planting now in our zone 7
garden. For help timing your fall garden, contact your local Master Gardener
group or county extension office. Southern Exposure also has several fall
planting guides on our website to help you out.
As insurance against fickle weather, I usually make at least
two planting of broccoli and cabbage seedlings for my fall garden. Frankly, vegetable
plants don’t care what season it is, as long as their basic growing conditions
are met. When it is 100°F for days in a row, you have to make it cooler. The soil
temperature should be 85°F or lower to get normal seedlings. If you have space to
start seedlings inside in flats that might be sufficient, as long as they are
kept moist and get enough light once the seedlings emerge. I need to start a
lot of plants, so I use these simple tricks for sowing brassica nursery beds
- I start my brassicas
outdoors in a rich, specially prepared seedling bed in a partially shaded
area that still has 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. We have trees just in the
right place. Corn or tall trellised tomatoes can provide enough shade.
- I cool the soil by watering the bed thoroughly one
week before planting, again the day before planting, and immediately after
- I cover the planted area with a piece of
salvaged window screen to keep it cooler and moist. Remove the screen as soon
as the tiny seedlings emerge.
- To protect the emerging seedlings from flea
beetles, grasshoppers and other insect pests, I use a
lightweight spun polyester row cover, supported by hoops.
- I water daily until the seedlings emerge, then
check daily and water as needed.
responds well to similar treatment and may need to be planted in the early
evening and watered with cold water or ice the first evening after planting to
get good germination.
Fall peas is another crop many gardeners don’t plant because
it is so hot when they need to be started, but fall peas are easy! Just presoak
the seeds the night before planting, then just before planting fill the drill
with water and let it soak in. The seeds will have plenty of water to
germinate. All the summer starting tips for brassicas apply to peas as well.
Gardeners in warmer climates of the coastal and lower South generally
are able to grow “fall vegetables” all winter long. Colder or mountainous areas
of the Southeast, on the other hand, have a shortened growing season in late
summer, before hard freezes begin. Elliot Coleman is my guru for winter
gardening. If he could do it in Maine, it should be easy in Virginia.
In addition to the cool weather, vegetable gardeners in most
of the Southeast have time to make more succession
plantings of summer crops like cucumber, beans, summer squash and corn. In
the late summer and fall it is best to choose quick maturing varieties that can
be harvested before growth slows too much when the days shorten and the
temperature cool off in the fall.
It is not time yet to plant garlic and perennial onions but
it is time to order your bulbs and plan so that you will have well prepared
space when the time comes to plant your garlic in October. Those of you
interested in adding perennial vegetables to your garden might enjoy reading
Kelly Winterton’s online booklet All
About Potato Onions. I think everyone interested in food self sufficiency
should give one of the other
onions like Egyptian Onions, White Multipliers, or Yellow Potato Onions a
One of my favorite summer meals doesn’t involve cooking at
all. Try making 2 slices of fresh homemade bread spread with homemade
mayonnaise, topped with slices from one small Yellow Potato onion and one large
heirloom tomato, plus garden fresh lettuce and basil. Add salt and pepper to
for stopping by and we hope you’ll come back often to see what we’re growing
and cooking. ___________________________________________________________________
Ira Wallace lives
and gardens at Acorn Community Farm home of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
where she coordinates variety selection and seed growers. Southern Exposure
offers 700+varieties of Non-GMO, open pollinated and organic seeds. Ira is also
a co-organizer of the Heritage
Harvest Festival at Monticello. She serves on the
board of the Organic Seed Alliance and is a frequent presenter at the Mother
Earth News Fairs and many other
events throughout the Southeast. Her
first book the "The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the
Southeast" will be available in 2013 .