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Time to Start Work on Your Fall Garden

By Kathy Van Mullekom


RISMEDIA, Mid- to late-summer is the ideal time to start a fall garden, or a “second season” crop of your favorite cool-season vegetables and flowers, according to Renee Shepherd of Renee’s Garden and the nonprofit Home Garden Seed Association.


What to grow. Even where winters are cold and the ground freezes hard, many vegetables can still be grown to maturity before first frost. For edibles, try beets, cilantro, lettuce, radish, spinach, kale, peas, salad greens, Swiss chard, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, onions, leeks, parsley and arugula. When choosing varieties, select ones that are fast-maturing to insure a harvest before cold weather hits.

Seeds of annual flowers that thrive in cool weather can also be sown now for fall and spring bloom, including alyssum, candytuft, calendula, stock and sweet peas.


When to start. The key to growing vegetables for fall harvest is timing. Vegetables grown in this season need about 14 extra days to mature compared with spring-seeded crops due to fall’s shorter days, cooling soil, and less intense sunshine. When deciding the date to start your veggies, first determine your average first frost date, which is Nov. 10-15 in Hampton Roads. Then look at the seed packet for days to maturity. Add 14 days to that number, then use that figure to calculate back to seed-starting date.


Growing on. Sowing seeds or setting out transplants in mid-summer can be more stressful to young plants than seeding during cooler, often wetter spring weather. Keep the soil moist as seeds are germinating.

Protect young seedlings with shade cloth or plant them near taller plants, such as corn or tomatoes to provide shade from the hot afternoon sun. Another option is to start seeds in containers in a spot with bright light and then transplant young seedlings into the garden. This works well for crops like lettuce and spinach, whose seeds don’t germinate as well when soil temperatures are high.


Fall harvest. With a little effort in late summer, you’ll eat well in fall because crops such as kale, lettuce, spinach, and broccoli thrive in the lower temperatures.


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(c) 2011, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.).

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