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Time to Plan and Plant for Fall

The following article was written to be published this week in a newspaper of a nearby county.  I thought TMG readers would enjoy it as well:

Knowing the cool days of fall are just ahead makes the heat and humidity of mid-summer more bearable. Fall is a great time to garden and  these hot days of mid-summer are the time to plan and plant.

We’ve had some nice soaking rains lately making the soil in my mulched garden perfect for planting crops like snap beans and limas.

One of my favorite fall crops is Masai snap beans.  They’re a bit shorter and bushier than say Blue Lake or Provider.  They can have a dozen long, straight, beautiful beans hanging on the plant at one time.  And they’re delicious!

Mine are just coming up, but you still have time to plant and have an excellent chance of bringing them to maturity since it only takes about 55 days from seedling to beans.  They’ll bear until frost and if you can protect them with a tunnel of row cover fabric over hoops  — you can have them even longer.

If you haven’t had rain and your soil is still dry —- try this. Throw a thick layer of straw (about 3 inches) on your planting area and then water deeply for at least 30 minutes.  The straw will keep your soil from compacting. Wait a day, pull back the straw and plant your beans.

When you finish planting, I’d suggest covering the soil again with at least an inch of straw to keep the moisture in to hasten germination.  Your beans will come right up through the straw.

Even with the rains, the garden soil is still a bit warm to direct sow some of the my favorite fall crops like lettuce, Russian Kale, Swiss Chard and delicious little Hakurei turnips. About 70 degrees is the optimum soil temperature for these to germinate.

I’ll start them in flats filled with moist grow mix out of direct sunlight in the shade of a tree.  After planting I’ll put a “sprinkling” of   straw on top to keep the soil moist and cool.   (Yes, the seed will come up through the light layer of straw.)

If we have some unusually high temperatures I’ll bring the flats into my enclosed porch where it’s cooler until the seed germinates. After that I’ll put them outside in dappled shade again until they have a week or two to grow and then transplant them to the garden.

If you’re thinking of gardening, but have not yet prepared your garden beds or don’t have space— why not try growing something in containers.

I supplement my garden growing area with the really good grow bags that are made from a two layer fabric that is breathable and allows for good drainage.  I’ve had excellent success with eggplant, peppers, potatoes and window box roma tomatoes using these bags.

Masai beans are perfect for container growing.  Lettuce also does very well in containers.  Varieties like Rouge D’Hiver, Winter Marvel, Little Gem and Bronze Arrowhead are some of the best lettuces for fall growing.

If you use containers that you can move easily and protect from frost you could harvest even longer.

I think the possibility of having fresh Masai beans for Thanksgiving and tender, young lettuce for Christmas dinner might be worth some experimenting. With thoughts like that you won’t even notice the few hot and humid days that remain.


Organic gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and a lot healthier.


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  • Oh how I wish I could fall garden. Our frost comes last of Sept. to 1st of Oct and that just doesn’t leave time. I did get some greens and peas to start this last week, a first for me.

    You got me to growing onions and garlic this year and we are pleased with the crops. My beans are just now in full production and the corn, butternut squash and pumpkins are on track for a good harvest. Carrots still are not mature but the beets really do need harvested.

  • That is an early frost Bonnie. You’d still have time for lettuce especially if you had a way to protect it through the frost and the freezes to come.

    Glad you were pleased with your onions and garlic this year. Nothing like having onions fresh from the garden.

    Sounds like you’re having a good year. You’d be amazed at the folks all over the country who have had trouble getting winter squash and pumpkins. These are people who usually are very successful with those crops. So congratulations on a good harvest.

    What state are you in Bonnie? I don’t think you mentioned it before.

  • We are getting ready for one of my favorite times of the year. I’m so happy to have found other gardeners to share information about Fall gardening. I’m ready for a new crop of tender greens and cool mornings with a sweater on…. and less mosquitoes. Hurrah for Fall gardening!!

  • Coming from a mostly flower-filled, container-garden background, this year (2012) was my first ever attempt at in-ground gardening and I think it would be accurate to say I am hooked! :D…and happily so.

    Almost everything was heirloom, organically-grown, and planted using the moon calendar as a guide. Despite marauding moles, schizophrenic weather, and my own lack of experience, I have been extremely happy with my results this year.

    The only thing I had to fail completely were my peas and I’m pretty sure the weather had more to do with that than anything else, but I figured I might try again this fall and see if I have better luck. So, I thought I’d do a bit of research and see what I could do better or differently, Googled and found your site, and I’m glad I did, because it gave me some ideas on how I’ll plant this next batch. Thanks muchly!

  • Welcome to TMG Grace! It’s nice to have you reading and I hope you will do so regularly.

    Congratulations on your successes this year! and on getting hooked — which is easy to do once you start. 🙂


  • Hey Theresa,

    Sorry I missed your reply way back in August. I am in Colorado, between Denver and Cheyenne Wyoming, zone 5b.

    Just ate our second cantaloupe! And the Okra loved the hot dry summer. Mine does best to get 4′ and this year looks like over 6′. Broke all kinds of records for heat (record highs, days over 90). Fall lettuce is pitifullest. Was able to get 4 cups of pesto and have that much more to do. Planted 4 types of basil and the combination is great.


  • Bonnie — Good to hear from you! And thanks for letting me know you’re in Colorado.
    Sounds like you are having many successes in spite of the heat.
    Bet that cantaloupe was wonderful!
    Keep in touch.

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