Starting a fall/winter vegetable garden

dragonriderAugust 27, 2006


I am new to gardening and would like to start a fall/winter garden.Not sure what would be best to plant. I have mixed soil of red clay and black dirt. Also would like to keep the pesticide use to a minimum so what best to use for bugs.

I realize these are very general questions but I'm just not sure where to begin.

Thanks for any help

I am also starting an herb garden indoors for the fall so I will have some for the holidays.

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You don't mention your zone, but I'm assuming you have a pretty mild winter season. Salad greens are a great choice, but so are carrots, beets, radishes, cabbage, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, maybe even peas, all of the cool-weather lovers that are so hard to grow in the heat of summer.

I'm in zone 5 and live on a mountain side, so we're already seeing night temperatures in the 50s and day temperatures in the 70s. I planted my fall carrots and peas a month ago, and lettuce, spinach, radishes, kale, and beets last weekend (it may be too late for the beets, and the others may not get very big before they stop growing). We'll have a mild frost in mid to late September, then a bit more good weather, then a hard freeze in late September or early October. For most of the cool-weather crops, the first light frosts will just sweeten the flavor, not kill them outright. So I planted things that will mature in 45-60 days (yeah, that works better for the carrots than the later stuff).

But what I'm saying is, pick out things you think you will probably eat, then check how many days to maturity versus how many days until you get a hard freeze. I'm betting you can plant a LOT of things still this weekend for harvest this fall and winter.

I can't give you any advice on bugs. As I'm closer to cold weather, the bugs are already much less of a problem here. And most years this is an alpine desert climate, which doesn't encourage a lot of bugs anyway (it has been just a bit wetter than usual this year, but the bugs were still pretty mild). I do get slugs in the late autumn, when I have my beds covered with a low poly-tunnel, and then I just uncover the beds during the day to let them dry out.

Good luck with your fall garden. I find this time of year is much calmer for gardening in, with very good results!


    Bookmark   August 30, 2006 at 4:01PM
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I highly recommend you consult Eliot Coleman's book, Four Season Harvest. It pretty much told me all I needed to know to get my own year-round garden going here in Richmond.

Re bugs, the first thing is to build a healthy soil and use plenty of compost. The second is to keep your cabbage-family crops (cabbage, kale, radish, broccoli, cauliflower and some others) under row cover. That will keep the cabbage moths from laying eggs that hatch into worms that eat the plants.

Fall and winter you have relatively few bugs in any case. No need to use pesticides in a healthy organic garden. If something is getting chomped, it can usually be protected with row cover, or you can find something else to grow in its place.

Re plant selection, get to know the cool-season vegetables: carrots, beets, onions, garlic, greens, lettuce. Don't be too ambitious at the start - give yourself time to learn about your unique growing conditions

Mostly though, get some books and read through them - these forums are wonderful but an absolute beginner needs to get a knowledge foundation, and that is best had from a book.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2006 at 3:25AM
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feldon30(N Houston (8))

Southwest Georgia is Zone 8a or 8b.

I don't know how close your climate is to Houston, I'm sure there are differences, but I have created a planting schedule that might be helpful.

I'd run out and get Ed Smith's The Vegetable Gardener's Bible just for a crash course in gardening. However his timing information is primarily for New England states. Down here, we have two short tomato seasons rather than one long one and it's tricky to get the timing right. Most people start way too late, buying tomato transplants in late March, early April and wonder why they don't get any tomatoes. :(

Right now you should be able to sow seeds for Wax and Green beans (either in Pole or Bush growth habit), Carrots, Parsnips, Beets, and Turnips. You can also plant transplants of Cucumbers, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, and Brussels Sprouts if you can find them at your local nursery. Most of the cool crops aren't bothered by a mild frost (30 degrees) and Brussels Sprouts actually benefit from one. You're a bit late for planting Cucumber and Squash seeds but I am giving this a try anyway! I figure I'll get some harvest, just not as much as I would if I'd started earlier. I planted Broccoli and Cauliflower seeds about a week ago so I'm also a bit late on that. :)

You can start Lettuce now if you can find seeds for heat-tolerant varieties like Jericho and Parris Island romaine/cos lettuce, otherwise wait until October. Then you can do Lettuce, Cabbage, Spinach, all the way through the first of March. There are head lettuces like you are familiar with at the grocery store (buttercrunch, bibb, romaine), and then there are cut-and-come-again leaf lettuces which are of great benefit to the home gardener because you can harvest the outer leaves off each plant every few days and it will keep growing back, giving you a bowl of salad almost every day depending on how much you plant. With the other crops, you can successively plant a little at a time so you will get a continuous harvest. Bush-type beans are self-supporting and give you the majority of their crop all in a short period. Pole-type beans need to climb something (up to 8') and give you beans in "flushes" over a month-long harvest.

Snow Peas, Sugar Snap Peas, and English Peas can be sown December 1st-January 15th.

Start Tomato and Pepper seeds January 1st-15th for transplant March 1st-30th. I scale up into 4" pots and then gallon pots so I have very large (18") transplants that are ready to hit the ground running and set tomatoes before it gets too hot.

If you have a local nursery (I prefer family-owned nurseries over Lowe's/Home Depot/Wal-Mart because they have a better selection. Most of the varieties are the big box stores are taste-poor in-my-opinion like Celebrity and Beefmaster) they might have tomato transplants when you need them or they might be late. I grow my own tomato plants from seed (google "starting tomato plants from seed" and you'll find a great FAQ about it).

    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 5:32PM
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feldon30(N Houston (8))

I think you want to always try to amend the soil you have. Fresh manure is usually too "hot" to use right away, but if you can get dried out cow or horse manure and mix it in, you should be in good shape!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 5:35PM
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