Gardening Tip of the Week – Summer’s End Signals Time to Sow Fall Veggie Seeds
Sow Many Seeds, Sow Little Time for Fall Planting
Seed Starting Basics
One of the best things about gardening in Texas is that we have two growing seasons: spring and fall. Not only can we harvest many vegetable crops in the fall, but more often than not, we can keep growing them through the winter and harvest them into the following spring.
But before you start scattering seeds, let us help you sort out some dos and don’ts of sowing a fall garden.
What to Plant in Fall
Some vegetables, like corn, enjoy the heat of summer. Others, like broccoli, prefer autumn for its lower temperatures. Modern Farmer explains that cool-weather crops grow best when daytime temperatures are in the 70s and low 80s and nights are in the 40s and 50s. Any colder and growth will stop, but as long as temperatures remain above about 20 degrees, you can continue to harvest their bounties.
Here’s just a few vegetables you can plant in autumn:
Wildflower seeds also should be sown in the fall. These spring bloomers actually germinate in the fall and spend the winter developing their roots before popping up in the spring.
Some plants are easier to start from seed than others. Some seeds are just more finicky than others. First timers should start with seeds that are easy to sow directly into the ground. These include green, leafy produce such as lettuce, Swiss chard, kale, mustard, and spinach. Root vegetables such as turnips, carrots, and beets are also great seeds for beginners. A bonus, according to Botanical Interests, is that plants sown directly outdoors tend to be more vigorous and healthier than transplants.
Read the packet. Seed packets are rich with information to guide you through planting your chosen vegetable to ensure your gardening success. When to plant, days to maturity, special characteristics, and much more are usually found on that small envelope.
The original envelope is also the best place to store any unused seeds, since all the information you need to remember is on the packet. Keep it in a cool, dark place until you are ready to plant more seeds.
Where to Plant
Sunlight is essential for plant growth. Most flowers and vegetables need at least eight hours of direct sun during the day. An uninterrupted period of light is best. This is especially true during the cooler, shorter days of autumn. While summer vegetables might appreciate afternoon shade, fall veggies need more uninterrupted light.
Botanical Interests suggests growing fall vegetables in a container. Because of cooler temperatures, plants don’t dry out as fast. If cold weather comes unexpectedly, they can be moved to shelter. Consider some edible container plantings like mixing kale, mustard, or lettuce with pansies and violas. Green onions, for example, could add a spiky centerpiece. A container of mixed herbs like chives, oregano, sage and thyme could be started in the next few weeks to give you a punch of flavor for your fall cooking.
Prepare the Area. Always plant in well-composted soil. Clear your bed of any weeds and remove dead heads of flowers and dead stalks. Break up heavy clay with Expanded Shale or Lava Sand. Also work in some Texas Greensand to replenish essential vitamins and minerals your vegetables need.
Use root stimulator. Soak your seeds over night in Maxicrop Liquid Seaweed or other root stimulator. This will speed up germination and increase the root mass of the plant.
When to Plant
The optimum time to plant depends on when the first freezing weather will occur, and on how long it takes for your vegetable to mature. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area the average first freeze occurs on November 21. Lettuce, for example, takes 40 to 80 days to mature. To find the optimum planting date for lettuce count backwards 40 days from November 21, which gives you a planting date of October 11.
Use Succession Planting
But if you sowed all your lettuce seeds on October 11, all your plants would be ready at the same time. It’s much better to spread out your harvest over a period of time so that you can enjoy it longer. Spread your planting out as well by sowing a few rows every two weeks over the growing season.
After sowing, soil should be kept moist, but not soggy. Make sure the top layer of soil where the seed is growing stays moist. Depending on the weather, you may need to water more than once a day to keep the seed and soil moist. Too little moisture can prevent the seed from germinating, while too much water can contribute to seed rot. Keep seeds moist until they have a root system sufficient to sustain them through a day or two. Don’t disturb the soil. Use a fine spray nozzle or watering can to gently apply water without washing away the soil around your seeds.
Once plants are established, mulch them to help retain moisture and insulate roots from the cold. Water regularly without over watering. Always check the soil before watering to make sure the plants really need it.
Since winter temperatures in North Texas often fall below the survivable range, you should be prepared to shelter them with a cold frame, row cover, frost blanket or other winter protection. Water your plants thoroughly right before any freezing weather to help protect the roots of your plants.
Vegetables should be fertilized every two weeks during the growing season. Green leafy vegetables need more nitrogen while root vegetables need more phosphate. Be sure to use a food that is formulated for the plant. (Read more about vegetable fertilization.)
Marshall Grain stocks one of the largest selections of vegetable and flower seeds in North Texas. We offer bulk seed and seed packets from several producers, including Botanical Interests and Renee’s Garden. In addition to garden seeds, we also carry pasture grass seeds, lawn seeds, and food crops such as wheat, rye, and oats in large bags.
Our knowledgeable staff is always happy to give you pointers. No matter what you’re thinking about planting, one of our employees has probably tried it! Also watch our events calendar for free gardening seminars.
A note about seed quality.
All vegetable seeds are inspected by both the FDA and the USDA to ensure quality, and consistency. Marshall Grain does not sell any genetically modified (GMO) seeds. GMO seeds are not available for sale through retail stores.
Get Marshall Grain’s exclusive planting calendar with the best starting dates for North Texas:
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