Planning & Seeding a Fall Garden

It is hot and not just that normal, sticky, summer hot. We have had record breaking temperatures in Charleston already this summer which can cause our plants to stop producing and go into survival mode. Even though tomatoes, cucumbers and squash might slow down until the temperatures venture away from the high 90s, it’s no reason for us to slow down in our garden planning. Although it doesn’t at all feel like it, fall will be here before we know it and we want to get that second crop of warm season vegetables, as well as cool season fall crops, started now so we can harvest in the late summer and early fall.

When planning your fall garden:
– Choose seeds that are recommended for fall planting. As wonderful & unique as heirloom varieties are, hybrid variety brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages) usually do much better than their heirloom counterparts. For fall planting, try these cultivars: Cauliflower ‘Amazing’, Broccoli ‘Belstar’ or ‘Gypsy’, Cabbage “Caraflex’ & ‘Tendersweet’. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Sow True Seeds are regional seed companies offering seeds that do well in the Southeast.
– Find seeds that are resistant to disease and possible pests.
– Consider your garden area to make sure you have the appropriate space for everything you want to plant. If you want beans and have a small space, choose pole beans instead of bush beans so you can trellis them and use less space
– Obtain compost to work into the existing soil

Now that you have found your seeds and planned your garden, it is time to start your seeds either indoors or in a ventilated and shade covered greenhouse.

Starting seeds indoors or in a greenhouse:
– Begin by sanitizing seed trays with one part bleach to ten parts water. A large tub or trash container works well if you have many trays and pots to clean. Trays and plastic pots can be recycled each year but local garden centers carry seed trays or you can order online at suppliers such as; growers supply or farmtek
– Select or create a light, airy potting mix. You can find potting or seed starting mixes at garden centers or you can create your own with peat moss and vermiculite or perlite. If using equal parts peat moss and vermiculite, keep in mind you will need to fertilize the seedlings with an organic fertilizer after they germinate and have a couple leaves.
– Before filling the seed trays with potting mix, add enough water to form a ball of dirt but not so much that it is soggy and dripping water. This will give your seeds a moist environment to get started but will also help keep the dust at bay.
– Loosely put potting mix in the seed tray making sure not to pack the mix into the cells but rather pour on top of tray and use a ruler or the side of your hand to level the top
– Begin seeding making sure to follow the appropriate planting depth requirements.
– Sites such as Johnny’s Select Seeds and others have in depth information for germination and seeding of specific vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers.
– Water seed trays daily to twice per day in order to keep the potting mix moist. Seeds allowed to dry out during the germination period can reduce your germination rate by 50%. Watering once per day usually suffices.
– Depending on the plant, most will be ready to be transplanted into a larger pot once they have 2-4 true leaves.
– When transplanting to the next size up, don’t go too large. A seedling from a 72 cell tray can go into a six pack container or a 3-4” pot but try not to dwarf the plant. It will be overwhelmed trying to fill the space with roots. Best to make small increments in sizes.
– Can’t stress enough….keep your seeds and seedlings moist!

Some of you might be saying, Well, great we know how to seed but what can I plant right now as we go into the month of July?

The following chart will provide some guidance for starting seeds in trays now, direct sowing into your garden and when to transplant the seedlings into your garden. Notice beans don’t have a date range for seeding in trays and only have a direct sow date range. Beans do not like to be transplanted so they are best to put directly into the garden bypassing any space needed in the greenhouse. But other crops such as: cucumbers, squash and lettuce can be direct sown or seeded indoors or in the greenhouse–your choice. Exciting isn’t it, these fun choices you get to make! If you are running low on space for seeding, a rule of thumb (but not always) is to direct sow the larger seeds into the garden and save smaller seeds for trays. Root vegetables also prefer to be direct sown into the garden as long as the soil has been properly tilled/loosened. These dates are not definitive so you have a little wiggle room but it can act as a guideline of when to seed and when to have plants in the garden.

Crop

Seed in Tray

Direct Sow

Transplant

Date in Garden

Sweet Potatoes

July 1

July 1

Artichoke

July 1

September 1

Tomatoes

June 25-July1

August 15-August 30

August 10

Pak Choi

July 1-August 15

August 15-October 1

August 20

Kale

July 1-August 1

August 20-October 1

September 15

Kohlrabi

July 1-July 15

August 20-October 1

September 15

Mustard

July 1-July 15

August 15-October 15

August 20-October 1

October 15

Cabbage

July 1-August 15

August 15-October 1

October 1

Broccoli

July 15

August 1-September 1

August 15

Onion-Transplants or Sets

July 15-September 15

September 1-December 31

November 15

Pole Beans

July 15-August 20

July 15

Beets

August 15-September 30

August 15 & September 15

Lettuce

August 1-August 15

August 15-September 15

September 1-October 1

October 1

Carrots

August 20-October 1

October 1

Radish

September 1-October 15

October 15

Turnip

August 10-October 15

October 15

Cucumber

July 15-July 20

August 1

August 20-September 1

August 20

Squash

July 1

July 1-July 15

August 1

In a 4’X8’ raised garden that has tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, squash and eggplant currently planted, I will do the following in the coming weeks and months:
– July 1: Pull Squash & Plant Sweet Potatoes (two plants maximum)
– July 1: Seed Artichoke & Cherry or Currant Tomatoes in Trays
– July 15: Pull Cucumbers & Direct Sow Pole Beans
– July 20: Seed Broccoli, Mustards, Pak Choi
– July 30: Pull Early Tomatoes, Pull Early Bean & Direct Sow Squash
– August 20: Transplant Tomatoes
– August 20: Direct Sow Cucumbers & Seed Kale and Collards
– September 1: Transplant Artichoke
– September 15: Direct Sow Lettuce, Radish, Beets & Pull Eggplant
– October 1: Direct Sow Carrots, Turnips

Charts, lists and planning can help in seeding and planting your garden but daily observation will be your best move in making sure you are successful in your garden. Learn about the vegetable varieties you selected, check for pests and disease daily, water appropriately, mulch around your plants, make notes about how much your plants are producing and whether you like the flavor a particular tomato or the texture of a new cucumber. Keeping a log of the activity in your garden will help you by providing references when you start planning your garden each season.

Back to News