Beans beets Carrots Encouragement (for Life as well as the Garden) Garden greens Organic Gardening Peas Peppers Radishes seed starting Spinach tomoatoes mentioned transplanting seedlings Watering

Variables – That’s Just Gardening

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.
These Masai beans were planted the first week in August and shown here August 29 without rain for weeks. I picked the first ones today, September 21st. - shown below.

This first planting of Masai beans for fall was planted the first week in August and are shown here August 29– having been without rain for weeks. I picked the first ones today, September 21st. – shown below.  Hard to believe they produced so beautifully without any rain.

Masai beans in drought

I thought I might not get any beans because of no rain since these were planted, but tonight I picked the first of the Masai beans and they were beautiful.

For fall/winter crops I planted:

  • 12 varieties of lettuce
  • swiss chard
  • beets
  • spinach
  • 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!)
Sierra Batavia that made it. Voles have been going under the left side --- where you see a couple of plants wilting.

Sierra Batavia lettuce that made it. Voles have been going under the left side — where you see a plant wilting.

  • 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.)

Dozens and dozens of peppers still coming.  Red ones have slowed a bit after 3 weeks of getting one everyday. This variety is Carmen, one of my favorites!

  • 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.

Lima beans are to the left.  Radishes in lower left corner.  Cultivated dandelion to right of bell pepper.  Borage on far right.  Asparagus ferns at top back.

  • 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.

Final Thoughts

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.


Suggested Reading:

Seed Not Germinating?/ Seedlings Disappearing?


Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.


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  • On my second round of lettuce growing for fall/winter (in little self made paper cups). First round I transplanted two thirds didn’t survive cutworms, despite using row covers. They must have been in the ground already. The ones I have growing now I wait till they are bigger before transplanting. Kale, collards doing good, broccoli doing ok. Note to self. Start lettuce earlier and let grow bigger before transplanting next year and start another round of lettuce after two weeks and not four weeks. At least lettuce will grow thru all winter here in North Florida. Also double broccoli seedlings. I am so starved for lettuce, hadn’t had any since end of May.

  • Hi Dagmar —
    Regarding winter crops — and most especially lettuce and the like —- : Even if the first planting do great and even if everyone makes it — continue to succession plant every so many weeks or at least once a month. That way — when those first plantings have done their job and give up the ghost — the other will still be going strong. It’s a great and easy way to have things a lot longer.

    I sure know what you mean about being starved for lettuce. I just can’t seem to exist without it. Hope yours will grow quickly!

  • Yes, I was planning to do succession once a month for lettuce, broccoli and kale and collards, but the lettuce I have to adjust down to two weeks at least early on into the fall season. I was buying store bought organic lettuce during summer but I just do not like it anymore.

  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. In everything. Fall gardening is very tricky this way, and this is a well-timed reminder. I’m happy to hear that you don’t think it’s too late to plant again. I’m going to try pepper cress for the first time. Have you ever grown cress, Theresa?

  • Dagmar, I also stopped buying the organic lettuce in the store a couple of years ago. It has absolutely NO taste.
    And yes, when you’re starting lettuce early into the season it’s a great idea to do it every two weeks rather than once a month.
    That way — you know you will have some! You’re doing some good stuff Dagmar. Keep it up!

    Sandra — yes I do have cresses in the garden. Now is the time they will start coming into their own. They’re wonderful in mixed greens for roasting or sauteing in oil. Regarding planting — I will plant through October and possibly into November depending on how cold it gets.

    Hey Cynthia! Yes we had a wonderful rain and the garden LOVED it!


  • Hi Theresa!
    I talked with another organic farmer at the market this week and he said talcum powder works on kale. I have used organic whole wheat flour with success, especially on beans until the beans get established. Ever hear of that?
    He uses BT for almost everything. I am not leaning that way. I would rather get my soil healthy and bring in the good guys naturally to police it. There is another organic farmer that uses dry farming practices with much success. His produce is expensive but beautiful. I may take a ride to his farm and check it out. I have turned off my irrigation due to all the rain, to get my blueberry bushes rooting deeper and to save $.
    Happy Fall!!! It rained last night!!
    Suzanne @ Le Farm

  • Hi Suzanne,
    I have heard of the whole wheat flour before — pros and cons — although I can’t remember all the details. Can’t remember the negative things I read years ago about talcum powder.

    Lots of organic gardeners use BT — but I — like you —- lean toward getting my soil healthier and healthier.

    Wrote a post last year on dry farming.
    If you ride over to his farm — I’d love to hear the details.

    Thanks for commenting Suzanne. And Happy Fall to you as well!

  • Theresa-

    I’m on the southern edge of NoVa, do you think I still have time for carrots? I haven’t had much luck getting them to germinate or past seedling stage, but I’m persistent.


  • Jennifer — carrots are sweeter in the fall and are great as a fall crop. But they should have been planted at the end of June or the first of July.
    I don’t grow a lot of carrots so it took me years to realize that it takes them a long time to grow. If you plant at the end of June they’d mature about mid October and can be held in the ground during the winter. If it gets really cold — you’d have to protect them with mulch.

    I’ve planted them this time of year and had them grow — but not well or much.
    Just to see what happens why don’t you try try a few in a flat or container. Once they’re up and going then transplant to the garden.
    Do it as an experiment, but just plan to plant at the end of June next year.


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