The reason for trying to start fall/winter crops in August is to give them as many days to get established with long daylight hours and warmth as possible. The more growth they get in before low light and cold weather sets in — the more bountiful will be your winter harvest.
Long about the first of August this year the rain was still coming when needed. Never experienced that before in all the years I’ve gardened. (I have no way to water other than my sprinkling can which I can fill from my two rain barrels.) So I was down right excited about getting fall crops started in soil that was not bone dry from drought.
The first part of August — in addition to cover crops in various beds — I planted lots of stuff for fall.
- Masai beans. (They’re great beans and do really well in the fall).
- Peas. (I usually don’t plant in the fall.)
- Planted more basil. It’s doing great and should give me some to freeze for winter. (I just chop and mix with a bit of olive oil, wrap (or put into a small container) and freeze.
For fall/winter crops I planted:
- 12 varieties of lettuce
- swiss chard
- radishes (French breakfast, german giants, china rose)
- Bok choy
- multiplier onions (am waiting for rain to transplant — it’s called for tonight)
- Hakurei turnips
- Frisee (I use this in winter only because it does so well in the cold and when you’re starving for anything green it’s great to have.)
- Mache (It’s one of my favorites for winter — but I forgot to plant as early as I wanted so it hasn’t germinated yet.)
And now for the rest of the story: It HASN’T rained for 6 WEEKS!
And there’s more:
- When I transplanted the 12 varieties of lettuce into the garden in various beds — 11 of the 12 disappeared by the next day! ( The good news is — the variety that made it <Sierra Batavia> has provided lettuce every day for about a month and that’s with no rain! Voles have just moved into that bed and I’m on the warpath — setting traps for them. I WANT that lettuce that they’re undermining!)
- Those voles ate some of my carrots. I pulled the rest. Fair —- but not my best crop.
- First planting of Swiss chard disappeared. Second planting was doing really well until the voles undermined most of it. It still might make it. I have a third and fourth planting started.
- First and second planting of Beets disappeared. Have a third planting started.
- About 5 Hakurei turnips and two pieces of spinach made it. Rain is called for tonight — so more might germinate.
- Frisee and mache have not yet germinated.
- Radishes are doing wonderfully and have been delicious. Funny thing is — they were right next to the lettuce that disappeared.
- The rain tonight may be too late for the peas. Time will tell. I’m hoping for the best.
- My Russian Kale that came up from seed is still hanging in there, but looks pretty shabby because of Harlequin bug damage. They’ll make a comeback for winter with the Harlequin bug now subsiding and this nice rain tonight.
All the veggies that were well established before the rain stopped did great through the 6 week drought and didn’t show any signs of stress that I could tell. They must have been taking moisture from deep in soil and from the air on these cool nights.
- Pepper plants are tall, lush and knocking out peppers. (Got red peppers everyday for about 3 weeks and thought I was in heaven. They’ve slowed at bit so will have to wait a while for more to ripen.)
- Tomatoes are still coming and I’m still fixing sauce every other day. (Have 6 gallons in the freezer plus I use some fresh almost everyday.)
- Eggplants look good and I’ll still get some more. How many will be determined by the first frost.
- Established chard (from the spring) still looks good.
- All 4 Lima bean plantings look good although without rain the pods are not filling out like they should. I still pick every 3rd day, but just don’t get as many as I would if we had had rain. This rain tonight will help a lot.
- Pinto beans are about finished except for a few. I only planted 24 beans of each two varieties and got a nice harvest from each.
- Cutting celery looks great. It’s a first for me this year and I’m very pleased with it. (Thank you to Alice out west for telling me about it!)
- With this nice rain tonight I should get green beans through frost.
What All This Has to Do with You
As I’ve mentioned in so many posts, it’s easy to let the negatives get you down. After you plant 3 times and nothing works — the human tendency is to throw in the towel and/or think you’re no good at gardening. Nothing could be further from the truth in most cases.
Every day, every month, and every year has it’s variables. Sometimes we’ll never know what causes things to do well or not do well. The only thing we can know for sure is —- if we don’t continue to plant — we will never harvest.
If we apply the basic principles of good gardening (they’re all here on TMG) — and keep on keeping on — no matter what —- we’ll reap the rewards and harvest when the gardener who allowed himself to become so discouraged that he didn’t keep planting has nothing.
Cynthia (a friend/reader) and I are planting spinach and lettuce for the 4th time. Hopefully — you won’t have to, but if the situation calls for it — join us.
In many parts of the country — including here in Virginia — we still have sufficient time left to start our winter crops.
Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.
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