Monday, July 22, 2013

Seeding the Next Season

The current state of the garden: a fortress against bunnies and ready to produce.

In spring, I am just eager to have warm weather, never mind the food and flowers. In summer, of course it's all about the towering tomatoes, beans, and okra. But fall may be my favorite time to garden. It helps soften the blow of winter coming, plus winter is the hardest time to get fresh vegetables, so the best time to grow your own!
I've lamented over and over again how hard it is to get the timing right for cool season crops, but each year it gets easier. For one thing, more garden beds means more space to leave empty (meaning avoiding trying to start seeds under those towering tomatoes, for example). Plus, with row cover and plastic greenhouses, I can easily overwinter most things. So, I may not have a bunch of parsnips and pounds of Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving, but I am sure to have a head start in late winter/early spring as well as plenty of greens during the winter.
This year, I am behind on some things already, but you can rarely predict the weather, so I'll try anyway. Last week, I direct seeded parsnips (over a month behind) and sowed some Brussels sprouts seeds as an experiment (the seeds are old, but it was worth a shot). The sprouts I grew last winter have long since gone to seed and sprouted anew. I'm letting the plant set its own timing--and I'll transplant those seedlings when they get some size on them. I am behind on those as well, but I was this-close to having fully formed sprouts this year with seedlings planted around Labor day, so I believe I have a fighting chance. Brassica also have a nice habit of growing new plants from their base, so my Brussels sprouts, kales, Chinese broccoli, and collards are helping me out by propagating themselves.

This new Brussels sprout plant sprouted from an old plant going to seed.

I prefer direct sowing, but in an effort to get a cauliflower or broccoli crop, I started those inside (on time!) and some celery--an experiment.

I learned about piracicaba broccoli from Margaret. Abundant side shoots may be easier to produce than one large perfect head.

I'm using Johnny's fall planting calculator to keep me on track for an abundant fall garden. I'll also direct sow kale, collards, broccoli, and cauliflower in case the seedlings started inside fail. Next up, roots (beets, carrots, radishes, and turnips). Then it will be time to sow the Asian greens--in addition to bok choy, I've got some rarer varieties from Kitazawa. I'll finish up with lettuce, arugula, and spinach; fava beans; another crop of onions; and maybe a fall pea sowing.

As proof of my excitement for fall, this is all planned out before I have picked one pepper, bean, squash, (just picked the first tatume!) or cucumber!

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