Fall Planting - - What and When?

bart1(6/7 Northern VA)August 3, 2006

The only thing I've ever planted in the fall is garlic, but I'd like to expand on that. What can I plant and when can I plant it in Northern VA?

Can you grow peas in the fall?




When should they go in?



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meldy_nva(z6b VA)

Fall planting of vegs divides into two groups: those that will make it to harvest all on their own, and those that you have to help by covering whenever the weather gets cold. Because our NVa "fall" often continues summerlike and only gradually skips into frosty weather, those who plan to help their veggies can often have harvests of many items until December.

Basically, you look at the seed packet and see how many days to harvest it says -- keeping in mind it refers to *first* picking, not the main or last picking! Watering is usually a necessity to get the seeds to sprout and grow.

If the carrots' packet says 70 days, seed planted on 8/10 should be of size by 10/20. (Don't forget carrots sprout better if kept in the dark, so cover the seed bed with a board until the green appears. If protected from critters, half-long and Nantes-type carrots do very well left in the ground for most of the winter; just mulch very heavily over them - 12-18" hay (or large bags of dried leaves) will permit you to harvest as needed until about March.

Almost all leafy cole-family crops do fine if planted in August (do water the seedlings regularly) and are harvestable by late October and -if you throw some row cover over them during freezes- many types usually continue growing through December. Kale is noted for having a much improved flavor *after* a few freezes, and it needs covering only for the worst of blizzards. Count the days for broc and cabbages, the quickest ones should be fine -- and if you plant a "sprouting" broc that continues to make little side bunches after the main bunch is cut, you can likely harvest til at least mid-Dec. The nice part is that you will rarely find any bugs or worms on late vegs, although I'd still cover the cabbage and broc just to be positive it was worm-free!

I find spinach is chancy; it just doesn't like to grow in the heat, so I'd recommend very small plantings every week through October: some won't make it, but some will. The main planting should occur about mid- to late-September, if you will use row cover, you can harvest spinach through March. Mache will do just fine, in fact, better than spring planting.

Green (English or garden) peas usually do well, provided the soil has enough moisture for sprouting. Try pre-soaking the seed in cool tea for a couple hours before planting. Because we often have tropical storms in the late summer, their trellis or fencing needs to be extremely secure --trying to lift up even a small section of fallen-over pea-vine covered fence is not amusing. And because those same storms can really dump rain on us, the peas will do better if planted in highly raised rows of quick-draining soil [6+" above the path level]. That means more frequent watering of the sproutlings, but ensures non-rotting of the plants.

If you can find seed for 45- to 60-day bush beans, there should be just enough warm growing time to get a few pickings.

If you really want to get into fall and winter harvesting, read "Four Season Harvest" by Eliot Coleman. Some of his methods are extreme - remember he is in Maine, not Virginia :) but he does demonstrate the possibilities.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 2:50PM
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bart1(6/7 Northern VA)


    Bookmark   August 4, 2006 at 9:10AM
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harryvetch(Cent.VA/ Zone 7)

Here's a thought....what about planting tomatoes????
I know, it's August the 5th....I'm not on drugs.....It may be too late, but how about taking about a two foot sucker, rooting it in some water and seeing if you can get some fruit by late September.....If your plants are like mine, they have already started to peter out.....

Just a thought.
Sure is hot out there!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2006 at 5:54PM
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