Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Fall Planting Schedule

Cobb County Extension publishes a Cobb County planting guide for home vegetable gardens, and it is available for free from the County Extension Office; unfortunately, this guide is for Spring planting only.

To help keep myself on track for getting the Fall veggies planted, I’ve created my own little schedule, based on a first frost date of 25 October. Last year, I used a later date, and it was, really, too late. The 25 October date is one I have used in previous years with better success.

To create the schedule, I calculated the timing of garden activities using the frost date and counting backwards. For example, the broccoli that I am using this year claims that it requires nine weeks to reach maturity. Counting back nine weeks from 25 October takes me to the last week of August. This is the date by which the seeds need to have germinated. Sadly, the “nine weeks” generally assumes ideal conditions in terms of light, nutrients, water, temperature.

I am hoping that I manage to at least get the nutrients and water right, but my garden gets a bit less than full sun, and the temperatures will be too hot before they are just right. This means that my broccoli may need an extra couple of weeks.

Also, if I want to have broccoli over a period of time rather than all at once in a big blast, I should plant some earlier and some later.

Taking all of this into account, I planted the first broccoli seeds today. I will probably plant a little more in a couple of weeks. This is the rest of my (tentative) planting schedule, calculated in the same way, which I will follow somewhat loosely:

14 weeks before frost (week of 20 July): broccoli, cabbage, a little more chard

13 weeks before frost (week of 27 July): a few lettuces, chicory, spinach, beets

11 weeks before frost (week of 10 Aug): carrots, peas, more broccoli, beer radishes, collards

9 weeks before frost (week of 24 Aug): more lettuces, cilantro, more spinach

8 weeks before frost (first week in Sept): regular radishes, more beets

6 weeks before frost (week of 14 Sept): possibly more radishes

I will use these approximate dates for seeding directly into the ground and for starting seeds in flats or little pots, if space in the garden isn't available yet. Transplanting can slow growth down for a short interval, but the plants usually do just fine. With care, even carrots can be started in a flat and transplanted out, but they usually end up a little bent.

If everything isn’t mature on 25 October, I don’t panic. When the weather cools in the Fall, veggies last longer in the garden, just sitting, but they will continue to mature on warm days. Eventually, most veggies will be ready for eating. Last year, the carrots I had been hoping to eat on Thanksgiving weren’t ready until Christmas-time. They tasted great.

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