Planning the Fall Garden: It's Hard!
Well, today I sat down with a notebook and started trying to figure out what plants are going to go where in the fall garden. Every year this drives me nuts, because I have to figure out where plants will go a month or two from now.
Everything in the garden looks great right now and it is hard to imagine the lovely lush plants I see won't last forever. BUT, experience tells me that a garden that is lovely and green and productive in late May or early June will be mostly burnt up and used up by mid-July to late-July or early August.
So, for anyone else who wants to plant a fall garden, here are some planting dates to use in your planning. This first set of dates is from OSU's fall planting guide. I kind of follow them, but not totally.
JULY 15-AUG 15:
AUG 1 - AUG 15:
Leaf Lettuce (This is the date recommmended by OSU, but I think it is too hot in southern OK in August, so I wait at least until Sept. 1)
AUG 1 - AUG 25:
AUG 1 - SEPT 1:
AUG 1 - SEPT 15:
AUG 15 - SEPT 1:
Peas (green, not southern)
AUG 15 - SEPT 15:
AUG 15 - OCT 10:
SEPT 1 - OCT 15:
SEPT 5 - SEPT 25:
SEPT 10 - OCT 10:
Because I lived in Texas forever, I still use my fall gardening dates from Texas to help me figure out what to plant when. Here's their planting dates for the part of North Texas that is just across the Red River from me.
These dates are for SEED sown directly into the garden.
Southern Peas (Black-eyes, cream, crowder, etc.)
Bush Lima Beans
Garlic (from cloves, not seed)
Bush beans (green, purple, yellow or bicolor)
If Planting From TRANSPLANTS:
One reason it is so hard to figure out what to plant when and where is that the summer garden sometimes is still going strong when it is time to plant fall crops. I use several creative ways to get around this. For example, if the okra survives the repeated deer attacks and is still productive, I plant lettuce on the east or north side of the okra (depending on which way that year's okra bed runs) and let the okra shade it.
If the summer tomatoes are somehow surviving the annual onslaught of disease and bugs, I often cut them back, or only remove sickly or less-productive ones. Then, I put some of the fall crops where I took out those particular spring-planted tomatoes.
Sometimes I feel like I simply CANNOT touch the spring-planted garden because it is going like gangbusters. In those cases, I get out the tiller and make the garden still larger so I can plant fall plants.
Usually, though, I put in fall crops as I harvest spring-planted crops like onions, potatoes, earlier beans, early or mid-season corn, etc.
And for some plants, like Cucumbers, that produce as expected and then decline fairly quickly in our heat, I'll take out the old ones and plant seed for new ones in the exact same spot.
Planting a fall garden is hard. Sometimes I wish I had an entire second garden plot just for fall crops. I could plant a cover crop in it in early Spring, till the cover crop into the ground in late-May, and start planting the fall garden in June. (I don't think my DH would like this plan at all. And, truthfully, I dread the idea of having to till up soil, remove grass roots, enrich the soil, build raised beds, etc. all over again.)
Fall gardening can be just as risky, frost and freeze-wise, as spring gardening. In my location, the average fall frost usually arrives in November and sometimes as late as mid-December. However, in other years it is MUCH earlier--either our first or second year here, we had a very hard killing frost on September 30th.
For me, planting fall tomatoes is the hardest part of it. They need a lot of room to grow and I hate taking out the spring tomatoes as long as they are still bearing. When I decide to carry over all the spring-planted tomatoes, I usually regret it, though. In July or August, it is almost a given the spring-planted tomatoes will get hit by either spider mites or stink bugs. Fresh plants are not really susceptible to either--the pests seem to go for the older, stressed plants, so I know it is important to plant new ones for fall.
In a year like this where the cool nights hang on forever, the garden might be just reaching its' most productive point at the time that I need to plant the new fall crops. Sometimes I get around this by starting plants in paper cups instead of direct seeding them. That way, I can harvest the "old" plants for 2 or 3 weeks longer. I then plant, cup and all, to reduce transplant shock and the "new" plants usually take off pretty fast as long as they are being watered.