Know When to Plant What:
To determine your optimum dates for sowing fall crops, add three weeks to the days to maturity ratings listed below or shown on your seed packs to compensate for days that are getting shorter. Then count back from your average first fall frost date to find the date you should sow each crop. (To find your average first fall frost date, search by state in the tables provided at http://cdo.ncdc.noaa.gov) Cool-season plants will continue to grow a little after nights turn chilly, but they will make most of their new growth early on, while the weather is still warm.
Many of the best crops of fall — including salad greens and various cabbage cousins — will refuse to germinate in soil warmer than 85 degrees, so the seeds are best started indoors (on a 90-degree day, surface soil temperatures may actually be 110 degrees or more). The procedure for growing seedlings is the same as in spring, but care for transplanted seedlings require some extra hardware. Insect pressure in late summer is severe, so use homemade or purchased lightweight row covers to exclude critters. It helps to shade each seedling with a light-colored flowerpot, pail or other cover for two to three days after transplanting. Protected from scorching sun, the seedlings can concentrate on growing reliable roots.
Cabbage and broccoli seedlings need to be planted at least eight weeks before the first fall frost, and as long as their roots are kept moist, they seem to benefit from a spell of hot weather as late summer days become shorter. When set out so late that they miss the last warm spells, cabbage cousins tend to stop growing too soon. Whether you’re working with seedlings you grew yourself or bought at a store, get them in the ground as soon as you can.
Excerpted from Mother Earth News magazine, the original guide to living wisely. Read the full story at www.MotherEarthNews.com or call (800) 234-3368 to subscribe. Copyright 2008 by Ogden Publications, Inc.