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Plant Vegetables Now!

By Paul James

If I had only one season to plant a vegetable garden, it would be fall. No doubt about it. And there are a number of reasons why, including cooler temperatures, more dependable rainfall, and fewer pest and disease problems. But the most compelling reason for planting veggies this time of year is that they taste better. Much better. So just what will I be planting, you ask?

Well pretty much everything I plant every spring, with the exception of asparagus, and that’s a long list, one that I now present in alphabetical order. The asterisk indicates those that I stick in the ground as transplants. All others I direct sow in the garden from seed except for potatoes, which I plant as tubers.

Planting veggies in the fall is a tad tricky, because everything on this list is a cool-season crop, yet it’s anything but cool this time of year. And it’s not just the air temperature that presents a problem – it’s the soil temp as well. So here’s what you need to do to ensure a successful fall planting.

  1. Start planting now, and make successive sowings into mid-September or beyond. Many lettuces, for example, are ready to harvest in 40 days, so if the weather stays mild, you can continue planting into October.
  2. Plant seeds and transplants late in the day, so they aren’t subjected to the hot sun immediately after planting, or wait for an overcast day to plant.
  3. Just before planting, water the soil lightly to cool it off a bit. Plant seeds roughly twice as deep as you would in spring (check the seed packet for recommended planting depth). It may take them a day or two longer to germinate, but they’ll be fine.
  4. Water every morning and again every evening. Water just enough to keep the top inch or so of soil moist and cool. If you’ve got a drip irrigation system, good for you. Follow the same schedule.
  5. Spread a light layer of mulch over the planting area to conserve moisture. Grass clippings work great, as does straw, compost, or bagged products such as Happy Frog or Coco Loco soil conditioners.
  6. As seeds begin to germinate, water a little longer, but continue to water twice a day until plants are established and temperatures begin to cool off a bit, then water only as needed.

Do all that, and you should have plenty of tasty veggies to enjoy for weeks on end. And don’t worry too much about frosts. Everything on my list is not only frost tolerant (down to about 27 degrees or so, even colder in many cases), but their flavor actually improves when they get kissed by frost because the plants produce more sugars in response to colder temperatures.

Happy gardening, ya’ll.

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16 responses to “Plant Vegetables Now!”

  1. Reta Fritchman says:

    Regarding the Caryopteris you have on sale right now—i had one of these years ago. The color was rather subdued throughout most of the growing season, but when fall came and there was a cold snap, oh my word! The color turned electric! It was stunning! I’d recommend this plant for that reason alone!

    • Paul James says:

      Thanks for sharing that, Rita. It really is a great plant, one that I think is underused.

  2. Deborah Burdette says:

    Does Southwood carry these fall veggies ready to plant?

    • Paul James says:

      We have transplants of broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Tomorrow we’ll have all the seeds I mentioned in stock.

  3. Laura says:

    Where do you find your seed potatoes this time of year?

    • Paul James says:

      Promise not to tell anyone? I just bought mine at Whole Foods. Potatoes from other grocers may have been sprayed with a chemical that inhibits sprouting.

  4. Kathleen Neal says:

    Earlier this year southwood’s had hydrangeas for sale so I bought one.
    What is the best way to protect it this winter?

    • Paul James says:

      A 2-3 inch layer of mulch will protect the root system. The top growth is hardy and won’t require protection.

  5. Ann Nelson. says:

    When do you expect other cool weather transplants?

    • Paul James says:

      We have transplants of broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower now. Fall veggie seeds will be on the shelves tomorrow. Enjoy your fall garden!

  6. Natalie says:

    Hey Paul! We have a 5×20 raised bed garden with tomatoes, squash, zucchini, jalapeños and bell peppers. Do we just tear out some of it to make room for fall veggies? Some plants look good still and other parts are pretty darn buggy, but still producing. Thanks!

  7. Paul Hammond says:

    Hi Paul,
    Are there tips to use when planting onion seeds directly it the ground?

    • Paul James says:

      Direct seed in the garden, spacing the seeds about 1″ apart in rows 6″ apart. As the plants develop, thin the seedlings so that the onions are 3″ to 4″ apart (you can eat the thinnings as scallions). The remaining plants should mature by late May. Enjoy!

  8. Susan H Brant says:

    Wish you still were on TV. I’ve tried vegetable gardens for a couple years now and have pretty much no luck. Sure could use the garderner guy!