Don’t Forget About Fall! Seeding Now for Autumn Abundance
Growing is an act of faith and foresight. Faith because you plant these seeds, tiny embodiments of life, small parcels of potential, and you trust that with the proper conditions and care, they will grow. Foresight because in farming and gardening, you are always thinking seasons ahead, anticipating the earth’s next rotation. We choose varieties and plan successions while the days are short and the thermometer practices nose-dives. We sow our first seeds in the greenhouse with snow blanketing the ground. But we know that the seasons will change, and this is why, even in the height of summer, when our fields are frantic with growth, we need to slide our attention briefly to focus on planning for harvests in the waning light of fall. There are many crops that can be planted in mid- to late-summer for fall harvests. Crops like carrots, broccoli, cabbage, kale, and cauliflower thrive under fall’s cooler growing conditions and can withstand light—and in some cases even heavy—frosts. However, timing is essential in ensuring a successful fall harvest. Determining Planting Dates As a first step, it is important to know the date of first frost in your growing area. If you don’t already know when this is, talk to other growers or check out a previous blog article on Fall Planting Guides By Region. It is also important to remember that plants’ growth rates slow down as the days get shorter; crops that you had a hard time keeping up with in the spring will be noticeably slower to mature in the fall. Virginia Cooperative Extension has a handy formula to help you determine when to plant for fall harvest:
- Take your first frost date for your area
- Subtract the number of days from seeding or transplanting outdoors to harvest (this is the days to maturity)
- Subtract the number of days from seed to transplant if you start your own seed
- Subtract the average harvest period (this is the length of time you expect to be harvesting your crop)
- Subtract the Fall Factor (about two weeks)
- This equals your fall planting date
- 48 days to maturity
- 28 days seed to transplant
- 15-20 days harvest period
- 10-14 days Fall Factor
I LOVE your blog postings, I'm always so glad I took the time to read them over, and oftentimes I cut and paste bits into documents for future reference!
Great question. You can cool down the soil by covering it with cardboard for a week before planting. Then sow your carrots in little trenches where water will collect, water in well, and replace the cardboard over them. Check on them every day to water, and remove the cardboard as soon as they've germinated.