Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
Only twelve weeks away from our average date of first freeze – November 1. The fall gardening times for planting actually count backwards from that date. Some of you have probably already pulled squash plants suffering from the heat and some determinate tomato plants that are struggling. You can fill that space with fall vegetables that need to be sown now and will produce well into fall, and a few even into winter.
The following dates are not set in stone so if you are a few days or a week off, don’t fret.
Recommended schedule for your fall garden:
August 9 (12 weeks out): Start seeds of kale, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower indoors. Allow at least a week for seedlings to adjust before planting them outside. If you start late, sow seeds into soil. If you haven’t tried kohlrabi, it is worth a few plants. It reminds me of cabbage but with a much milder taste. I slice it and broil it with oil and spices. If you wait for cooler temps for cabbage family crops, they will grow too slowly to make a crop.
August 23: (10 weeks out): Set out the seedlings. Direct sow leeks, scallions, beets, carrots, lettuce and radishes.
September 6: (8 weeks out): Direct sow arugula, turnips, spinach, bok choy and other greens. Add more lettuce and radishes.
September 20: (6 weeks out): Sow your last crops with spinach and lettuce. Sowing these at intervals will ensure you have greens for Thanksgiving – and maybe Christmas if you use row cover.
Dry soil isn’t good for slow growing crops like beets, cauliflower and carrots. If you won’t be able to water daily during their growing cycle, you might consider a soaker hose set on a timer. Newly planted beds need to be kept moist so the seeds can germinate.
If your bed sits in the sun a simple shade cover during still hot days will protect new seedlings. An old sheet or cloth held up by hoops or stakes will work.
Lay sheets of wet newspaper between plants to hold in moisture, prevent weeds and attract earthworms. Wetting the newspaper before you lay it down helps hold it in place. I throw some mulch on mine to hold it down.
When these plants are taken by the freezes during winter, leave them in the soil to decompose and help replenish micronutrients. The newspaper can be left as well – your worms will thank you.
With temperatures in the 100s recently, that first freeze is looking pretty good right now, isn’t it?
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information.