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Planning the Fall Garden

Posted by okiedawn Z7 OK (My Page) on
Mon, Jun 4, 07 at 14:34

I know what you are thinking. It is too early to worry about the fall garden, right? Wrong. I started my fall tomato plants about 2 or 3 weeks ago, and am potting them up today from the starter cells to 5 oz. paper cups. I hope to get them in the ground in late June to early July, depending on how bad the spring-planted tomatoes look by then.

So, if you want to have a fall garden, you have to plant many of the plants in July or August in order for them to produce. So, it is time to start doing your planning now.

Here's the planting dates. The first date in a pair of dates would apply more to southern Oklahoma and the last date to northern Oklahoma. Just judge how far north or south you are, and chose the best planting dates for your area accordingly. If you are growing your own transplants to set out into the garden, start then 3 to 6 weeks before you want to transplant them out into the garden.

FALL PLANTING DATE FOR TENDER VEGETABLES:

JULY 1-15: tomato transplants

JULY 15: sweet corn seed, eggplant transplants, pepper transplants, tomatillo transplants

JULY 15 - JULY 30: pole bean seed, pumpkin seed, winter squash seed

JULY 15 - AUGUST 1: southern pea seed, (blackeyed peas, crowder peas, cream peas, cowpeas), cilantro seed

JULY 15 - SEPTEMBER 1: summer squash seed

AUGUST 10 - AUGUST 20: bush bean seed, lima bean seed, cucumber seed,

FALL PLANTING DATES FOR HARDY/SEMI-HARDY PLANTS THAT CAN WITHSTAND SOME FROST/FREEZING TEMPS:

Beet -- August 1 - 15 (seeds)
Broccoli -- July 15 - August 15 (transplants)
Brussels Sprouts July 15 - August 15 (transplants)
Cabbage August 1 - August 25 (transplants)
Chinese Cabbage August 1 - August 25 (seed or transplants)
Carrots July 15 - August 15 (seed)
Cauliflower August 1 - August 25 (transplants)
Collards August 1 - September 1 (transplants)
Garlic September 1 - October 15 (cloves)
Irish Potato August 1 - August 15 (seed potatoes)
Kale September 1 (transplants)
Kohlrabi September 1 (transplants)
Leaf Lettuce August 1 - August 15 (seed or transplants)
Leeks September 1 (seed or transplants)
Mustard September 10 - October 10 (seed)
Onions Sept 1 (seeds, sets, or transplants)
Parsnip July 15 - August 15 (seed or transplants)
Peas, green August 15 - September 1 (seed)
Radish August 15 - October 10 (seed)
Rutabaga August 15 - September 15 (seed)
Spinach September 5 - September 25 (seed)
Swiss Chard August 1 - Septemeber 15 (seed)
Turnip August 1 - September 15 (seed)

Often a fall vegetable garden will give you better quality produce, because it is growing during warm sunny days accompanied by cool, humid nights. Heat stress is not as much of a negative factor.

I like to start my seeds outdoors so they are used to the heat from day 1. This usually means the flats must be watered at least twice daily, though. I like to start them out in dappled shade and move them out into full sun as they get bigger and stronger.

When planting the seeds or transplants into the garden, remember that they will need frequent watering to help them get established in the heat.

Sometimes, the spring-planted veggies are growing and producing so well that it is hard to find room to add fall veggies. Other years, though, esp. when high humidity has caused lots of disease problems, I can hardly wait to yank out the summer stuff and put in the fall stuff.

Dawn


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Thanks for all the tips! I didn't know you could plant/harvest tomatoes in the fall.

I guess, then, I should plan a few fall veggies. I'd like to grow onions, shallots and garlic because I use a few of them and if I grow some, I won't have to buy any at the store. Other than that, I don't have any ideas, though.

I have starting thinking about the fall, though, because my tomato plants are just about ready to produce. I wish I had my camera with me or else I'd show you. I have tomato-sized tomatoes in my back garden!

I scarcely imagined they'd be this big and good-looking on my first attempt. And the peppers are looking just fantastic. The cayennes are especially picturesque. They just keep getting bigger and bigger every hour it seems, but they aren't ripe yet.

My basil, dill and chamomile have gone to seed and my mint is just flat-out exploding. I really need to cut it back and make some tea, or it's going to take over!

The sage is looking wonderful, too, but has yet to blossom. Do you know when I can expect the sage to flower?

Thanks for all the planting possibilities. I wish I had a better idea than to grow garlic and onions, but that's all I can think of at the moment. Maybe my wife would like zucchini or another squash?


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Thanks so much for posting this, okiedawn.
It's a BIG help.


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Thanks so much for letting us no I will start my seeds tomorrow

Bessie


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Dawn,
You have become such an invaluable resource!! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with me/us daily. I look forward to checking the forum everyday to see what bits of wisdom I can pick up from you.

Thank you!!!

Courtney


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Jeff, Hi! If you want to plant garlic, the fall is the absolute best time to plant it in our climate. You don't harvest it until next spring, so it is one of those things you plant and pretty much forget. You can plant cloves of store-purchased garlic or you can buy all kinds of fancy garlic from seed companies like Territorial Seed.

Tomatoes and peppers are very popular plants for fall gardens, because the spring-planted ones that look so wonderful now....well, they often look pretty sad and ragged by August. Not always, though. Some years the tomato plants and pepper plants run right on without missing a beat until the first freeze. I always keep some of the spring-planted ones going, and plant new ones for fall also.

Many of the leaf crops and brassicas have MUCH LESS pest damage in the fall, because the pests that often bother them are not around as much in hot weather when the plants are set out.

If none of the fall veggie garden crops appeal much to y'all, you can always plant a cover crop in the fall that you can till into your soil in late winter/early spring to add organic matter to the soil.

Fall is also a great time to start seeds of many perennial and biennial flowers. And, it is a great time to add shrubs or ground covers if you need to do any of that type of planting.

In my fall garden I always grow brightly colored Indian corn like Painted Mountain, a dark-stalked corn like Platinum or Red Stalker, pumpkins, gourds, winter squash and plants like amaranth that produce large, colored seed-heads. These plants, if planted in late June or early July, provide me with tons and tons of autumn decorations for the house, barn and yard.

Oz, Bessie & Courtney,

Glad the info helps. It is all in OSU factsheets, too, but not everyone likes to navigate their way around the extension website, so I try to put these dates in here at least once a year.

I love having a fall garden. It is fun to have a 'second chance' with crops that the spring weather, cold, rain or bugs may have totally wiped out or at least severely damaged. Lots of people think we have one long, growing season here in our climate, but if you think about it, we really have several shorter growing seasons.

In Jan.-Mar., you can plant cool-season veggies like broccoli, beets, lettuce, onions, potatoes, etc.

In Mar.-May, you can plant warm-season veggies like beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers, watermelons, squash, etc.

In Jun.-Oct., you can plant a second planting of everythingf you grew, or attempted to grow, in either one of the two earlier seasons. You don't get that opportunity in a lot of places north and east of us.

I am glad, however, that we can't grow a lot in the winter, 'cause I personally need some down time to recover from the heavy gardening season. If we could garden here year round, I think I would keep myself on the verge of exhaustion all the time!

Happy Growing,

Dawn


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Hey, Dawn -

Thanks for the suggestions - my light bulb just came on!

My broccoli isn't doing so hot - guess I planted it too late. . . when do you reccomend starting the seeds to transplant outside for the fall crop? We have nowhere indoors to start seeds (with a toddler in the house), but can get them started in part shade outside. . .

Lanna


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

It's interesting that you said that, Dawn. My tomato plants in the back garden (where it's sunnier) are big enough for a 6-year-old to hide inside. I can't imagine them looking too ragged by August. I think they'll just power through.

And as far as pest problems go, I haven't had any. I found a slug once and I've found a total of three tiny green caterpillars. Other than that, the only animals in my herb garden are pillbugs, ants and spiders.

Either I've been exceedingly lucky, or I'm a very good gardener. I'm betting on the former!

Anyway, I'll plant some garlic and shallots this fall. As far as onions go, is there more to it than putting a storebought onion in the ground? Are they grown from seeds, or transplants?


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Dawn I do no what you mean I don't think I could stand to be where I could garden all year I need the winter to get my energy back from all the garden work

It also gives us time to sit and think of the new gardens we will be planting next year go through all the seed catalogs and dream :)


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Lanna,

First, choose the planting date that makes sense for your location in Oklahoma. Then, count backwards 3 to 4 weeks and start your seeds then.

A surefire way to start seeds is to soak them in water for a few hours. Wrap the seeds in a dampened coffee filter and put them in a zip-lock bag where you can see them and where the toddler cannot reach them. Check them once or twice a day to see if they are beginning to sprout. As soon as they sprout, plant them in your six packs or flats or whatever. Water them, keep them in partial shade, and they will grow quickly.

Before you transplant them into the garden, expose them to ever-increasing amounts of sunlight to harden them off.

I like sprouting stuff in bags because it is a sure-thing. I go nuts waiting for the slower sprouting in soil. However, in the summertime, everything in soil does sprout REALLY quickly. Those baby plants will probably need to be watered every morning and every evening because flats dry out quickly in our heat.

As far as planting spring broccoli too late....live and learn! The first time I planted broccoli, I planted it too late also. It is a common mistake.

Jeff,

It is possible that your tomato plants will make it through the summer just fine. It is just that there is no guarantee. Your climate and soil are so different from ours, but I can tell you that here in southern Oklahoma, most tomato plants have just "had it" by mid-August of most years. Of course, some years are better than others, and some plants are more resilient than others.

Some tomato plants don't even notice the heat and disease and garden pests and whiz right through the summer and into fall. Better Boy and Big Boy both do that here in my part of the state. I have had them continue to flower and set fruit even when we had several continuous days with temps in the 110 to 115 degree range, and that is incredible.

Other plants catch every fungal and viral thing that comes along. Others just brown out and die once our temps start exceeding 100 degrees on a regular basis. And yet others withstand disease but can't overcome aphids or spider mites or stink bugs. It is always something.

Anyway, I like planting a fall crop....it gives me a chance to try a lot of new tomatoes that I didn't plant in the spring, or it gives me a second chance with varieties that had a crop failure. I am trying a whole lot of varieties that are new to me this fall, and cannot wait to see how they perform.

Bessie, I absolutely love the piles of seed catalogs and all the dreaming they inspire in the winter! When a new seed catalog arrives in November, December or January, I am like a kid with a new toy!

Dawn


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

I was reading somewhere about "making" tomato plants from the cuttings you make while training your plants on a stake. It said to let those suckers grow to 6 inches or so before pinching them off. Stick the sucker in water until it sprouts roots and you're ready to pot it getting ready for planting.

Comments, opinions.

Hank


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Hank,

I've never tried that, but it's a great idea! I have rooted a rugosa rose by laying a branch over and covering it with soil. . . maybe that would work with tomatos, too - you know, like strawberry runners? Do you know of any other veggies or herbs that you can root cuttings? Lanna


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Hank,

It is easy to start new tomato plants from cuttings. The cuttings root quickly and can be planted in the ground as soon as they have enough roots to take up water and sustain life. The only thing to be careful of is that the plant must be free of systemic diseases or you are just starting a plant that will soon have major disease problems.

You also can start a new tomato plant by layering, the way Lanna rooted a rugosa rose.

Because I like to grow a lot of different heirloom tomatoes, I tend to start my plants from seed so I can have many different varieties. Also, some varieties that produce well in spring do not produce as well in late summer/fall, so sometimes I choose fall varieties which can better tolerate the raging August heat. And, sometimes I just choose varieties I want to try as an experiment.

This spring I read a couple of books about tomato history. (I know it might be shocking to learn such books exist!) After reading the books, I decided I wanted to try more of the Livingston tomatoes (I already had Livingson Gold Ball, Livingston Golden Queen and Lutescent.) So, I ordered seed of all the authentic Livingston varieties I could find, and am going to plant them with my fall tomatoes. The Livingston tomato varieties I have date back to the 1870s through the 1940s, so I am looking forward to seeing how they taste compared to more widely available heirlooms.

Lanna,

Because most vegetables are so easy to start from seed, I have not heard of many people rooting them via cuttings or layering, but I am sure it can be done. Some plants, like winter squash, pumpkins and sweet potatoes, can root into the ground wherever their stems make soil contact, so I would think they would be easy to layer. Other plants, like leeks, garlic, onions, scallions, etc. are often started from the cut-off root ends. I think this works best with freshly harvested vegetables whose root ends have not yet dried up, but I have heard of people buying, say, a bunch of leeks at the store, removing the root end as they prepare to use the leeks, and then planting the root end into the garden where new plants are formed. I also know some people buy carrots at the store that still have the green tops attached and cut off the top of the carrot with the green top attached and plant it. I don't know how successful they are.

Potatoes, of course, are grown from the eye portion of potatoes, and garlic is grown by separating and planting the cloves of a bulb. Almost any herb can be started from cuttings, and some can be layered.

Fruits that grow on their own roots, like blackberries and strawberries, can be grown from cuttings (blackberries) and from runners separated from the mother plant after they have rooted (strawberries). This doesn't work with grafted plants, in general, like most modern fruit tree cultivars, because the plants are grafted onto hardy rootstock for a reason, generally because the rootstock gives a healthier, more vigorous and more productive plant.

Many, many flowers, by the way, can be propagated via cuttings and layering. I always root cuttings to increase the number of ornamental sweet potato plants and coleus plants I have.

If you are interested in experimenting with propragating different fruits, vegetables and herbs, visit the Frugal Gardening forum. There are always lots of threads there on starting crops/ornamental plants from grocery-store purchased items.

Dawn


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

I stumbled back onto this thread while searching for something else. My how time does fly. I haven't had time to think fall garden because I've been nursing all my tomato and cucumber plants. I had to put in 4 more stakes for the tomatos because they continue to grow up and out. Over five foot tall plants now and lots and lots of flowers and 3 inch diamers clumps of green tomatos hidden in that mass of leaves and branches you can't see through. The cukes are funny. Now that they have a trellis to climb they don't want to climb up anymore only out. One day I'll see a little 3 or 4 inch cuke and a couple days later there's a single 10 inch cuke ready to eat. I don't know what I'll do if a whole bunch ripen at once. There are tons of 1 inchers all over the place but it sems only one ripens at a time.

Fall garden. What fall garden? Seems like one needs a 'big' garden to plant for fall while the summer stuff is still going like crazy. My tomaters take up close to 30 square feet and those 4 cucumber plants take another 20.

I've got one 4 foot row of beets in. They've sprouted a couple days ago but still have only the first 2 tiny whatever you call them sticking out.

So how is everyone else doing with the fall stuff?

Hank


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Dawn,
I purchased some Roma tomato seeds (burpee seeds) back in the spring, but never got them in the ground. Would they be a good candidate for a Fall Garden?

Hank - thanks for reopening this thread! I had forgotten about it which is a shame becuse there's so much awesome info here!

DH is really trying hard to keep from having to build a greenhouse for me :) He had an idea that in theory seems like it might work. I thought I'd run it by you guys and see. He thinks using PVC pipe to make arches over the existing garden, and then covering them with a sheet of clear plastic would suffice as a greenhouse. I am doubtful that the true tropicals like the ficus or hibiscus would survive the winter in there, but how about some borderline plants. I was thinking I could overwinter the sweet potato vines, Bridal veil, tomato, etc. in there.

Comments?

Thanks
Courtney


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Hank,

If all the cukes get ripe at once, you can make pickles. If you don't like to can, you can make refrigerator pickles-they are really easy.

Having a fall garden does require a lot of space and it has taken me quite a while to get the hang of it.

My late corn is about ready to pick, and when I remove all the plant debris after picking the corn, I will have about 100 square feet in which to plant something else for fall.

I will remove the tomato plants that are about worn out (the ones that have been producing ripe fruit since late April) and replace them with fall tomatoes. I think I will let all the peppers stay. They tend to produce all season if I keep them well-watered.

In order to have room to plant the fall garden, you have to be pretty ruthless about removing plants that are near the end of their productive period so that you can replace them with new plants. It is part art and part science to get the timing just right.

Some years, if the spring-planted peppers and tomatoes are still going strong, I plant less of a fall garden than usual. If the plants are struggling with weather conditions or disease, I take them out and plant a larger fall garden. It IS hard to take out relatively well-producing plants, but I can make myself do it if I know that their production drops drastically in August.

For me, there is nothing worse than looking at the garden in mid- to late-July and sayings "It looks pretty good so I'll leave it alone and not plant much for fall" only to have the August heat burn everything up. By the time I realize those plants are then too stressed to make it another 2 or 3 months, it is too late to plant much for fall.

Don't forget that a fall garden is a lot easier to plant if you have endless amounts of room like I do. When I lived in town and had a much smaller garden, I had only a small fall garden most years.

Courtney,

Romas would make a great fall crop, but you need to get them started ASAP.

We have used a 'temporary' green house made of poles and plastic to protect fall tomatoes from an early frost, and the plants went on to produce for another couple of months.
Any part of the plant that touches the plastic will freeze, though, so you have to leave some space between the plastic and the plants.

I also built plastic structures similar to what you want to do in order to protect this sping's already-planted tomato plants when the late cold spell hit. I was able to save all the plants by using large buckets of water to help hold in the heat and by using hay around the plants as insulation. I only used this method for a couple of weeks, and it worked, but I don't think it would work long term.

The plastic will offer some protection, but not enough to get tender plants through the winter. Even thick plastic lacks the insulation needed to hold in enough heat, even if you have a small greenhouse heater. Now, if you have two layers of plastic with air between them, and a really good heating system, you might get the plants through the cold weather, but only if the plastic is airtight and keeps the hot air inside and the cold outside. Also, you have to have a way to vent the plastic so the plants don't roast on the sunny days. Randy or Dawna could advise you on how they heat their greenhouses and you might be able to adapt greenhouse heaters to heat a plastic hoophouse. I have to tell you, though, that I don't think it will work for the whole winter.....we have too many brutal cold spells. If I thought a hoophouse was the answer, we would have built one long ago!

Dawn


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Hank, I second Dawn on rooting tomatoes. Last year, I raised both tobacco and tomato hornworm sphinx on tomato foliage, and as fast as they could eat a small branch of the tomato plant, it would send out roots! And, believe me, that IS FAST, cuz tomato hornworms eat a lot very quickly. I sat and watched one as I took a break, and it ate an entire lateral branch as I watched for about 5 minutes! They can consume huge amounts of foliage.

Does anyone else grow Hops here?

Susan


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Susan,

I had two tiny golden hops plants that were very small when I set them out last year, and I lost them--presumably to the drought--last summer.

I will try to grow them again.....maybe next year!

Dawn


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Fall Flowers

Hey, I'm thinking of starting some flower seeds in cups for the fall.

I haven't had much success/experience with starting seeds indoors before.

Does anyone have a few recommendations for flowers that are likely to do well started indoors for the fall season?


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Dawn, I am having trouble locating a source for heirloom tomato seed. Where do you buy your seed? I bought plants this spring but some of the varieties you talk about growing weren't on "The Tomato Man's" list of available plants. And buying plants gets kinda expensive.

Also, and this is off-thread, I saw in an earlier thread where you had told someone what to do to their peach trees during the spring freeze to keep from losing their fruit, but I didn't ever see the thread where you explained that. I want peaches next year! Tell me what to do in case I have that happen next spring, please?


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Oz,

In order to start flowers from seed now, you are mostly looking at one of two types.....and your choice of which to plant may be dependent on when your average first fall occurs in your part of the state.

You can still start warm-season annual flowers from seed now if they flower relatively quickly from seed....flowers like zinnias, cosmos, marigolds or gomphrena.

Or, you can start cool-season annual flowers from seed now and they will grow a little more slowly while the weather remains hot, but will grow and bloom into the winter months if properly hardened off before really cold weather arrives. This would include flowers like pansies, snapdragons, dianthus, violas and ornamental kale and cabbage.

Actually, you also could start the seed of many biennials, perennials, and wildflowers between now and the end of the calendar year. The planting dates vary with the chosen flowers.

Ilene,

I'll list my five or six favorite sources for heirloom tomato seeds. There are many out there, but these are the most reliable ones. With these, you almost always get exactly what you ordered......with some of the others that are out there, you sometimes get crossed seed.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed (www.rareseeds.com) (based in Missouri)--I like this one because they often have Ozark-type heirlooms not available elsewhere, and they put LOTS of seeds in each package.

Victory Seeds (www.Victoryseed.com)--I like this one because they strive to be totally accurate in their histories of each tomato, unlike some companies which exaggerate in their ad copy. They alse have great packaging and quality seeds. I always have great germination rates with their seeds.

Tomato Growers Supply Company (www.tomatogrowers.com) This is the first tomato seed company I discovered long ago and it will always be one of my favorites. Great selection and great quality. Also a great source of pepper seeds. Run by Vince and Linda Sapp for many years, and I think Vince passed away in 2006. I am hoping Linda keeps the company going.

Totally Tomatoes (www.totallytomato.com) This used to be a great company but it was bought by a big conglomerate and I am not quite as fond of it as I used to be. Still, it has some seeds you can't get anywhere else. Be advised it is not 'totally tomatoes' any more and has a bit of everything.

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (www.southernexposure.com) This company focuses on seeds that grow well in the south and southeast. Their catalogue blurbs are very informtive.

Seed Savers Exchange (www.seedsaver.org) This is THE source for true heirlooms, as opposed to manufactured heirlooms. They have seeds of all types of heirloom veggies and flowers. This is the group that really popularized seed-saving and planting heirlooms. You don't have to buy a membership to be able to order from their catalog, but a membership entitles you to receive access to thousands of items not found in the retail catalog. I buy a membership just to support their mission of saving heirlooms. I have purchased seeds of many heirloom melons, pumpkins, squash, corn and flowers from them as well as their wonderful tomatoes.

Sandhill Preservation Center (www.sandhillpreservation.com) This is a small, family-operated organization and you have to follow their ordering directions explicitly or they will reject your order. They aren't being difficult to deal with, just that there's just the two of them and one of them has an 'off-the-farm' job as well! This is an incredible source for heirloom seeds, and not just tomatoes but many others as well, esp. heirloom sweet potatoes....and heirloom poultry as well.

There are several ways to keep your peach blooms and tiny fruit from freezing during a late freeze, and none of them are guaranteed. The most successful way I have found is to string the trees with Christmas lights (the larger the lights, the better) and then cover the trees with large sheets of plastic. The plastic holds in the heat from the light bulbs. You can keep the flowers and fruit warm for days this way, but it generally fails to keep them warm enough to survive snow or sleet. You can use plastic tarps, plastic swimming pool covers, etc. I buy plastic in big rolls at Home Depot or Lowe's--usually I get the one that is 10' wide, but sometimes all they have is the stuff that is 6' wide. I keep some plastic and duct tape in the garage every spring, because you never know when a late frost will hit. I've had pretty good luck with this one.

You can sometimes save them by turning on the sprinkler and running it all night if a freeze is predicted. This will work if the temp is only going a couple of degrees below freezing.

The old country way of doing it is to soak hay or straw in kerosene, put it in a metal bucket or bin, and light it on fire. (I'm too scared of burning down the place to try this one, but lots of oldtimers swear by it.) If you ever try this one, you probably would need to stay awake all night to be sure you don't set your place on fire with your burning smudge pots.

Dawn


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Dawn, thanks much for that info. I will watch rummage sales for the big outdoor bulbs and get some plastic so I'll be ready next year! I've tried the hosing down method and didn't have good luck with it this last spring, but it stayed below freezing for about two full days this time. The worst spring freeze ever!

Now I'm off to go look at those websites you provided!


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Dawn I didn't quite understand what you meant regarding hardening in what you said below.

"Or, you can start cool-season annual flowers from seed now and they will grow a little more slowly while the weather remains hot, but will grow and bloom into the winter months if properly hardened off before really cold weather arrives."

At what point do you "harden them off"? Can you explain this a little more?

Hank


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RE: Planning the Fall Garden

Hank,

When I start seedlings of cool-season flowers in August to plant in the ground in October, I like to start them on my east-facing front porch so they get morning sun and afternoon shade but are protected from the brutal afternoon sun and temperatures.

As the weather cools down in early September, I move them out into partial shade where they might get dappled shade all day, and full sun part of the day, depending on which tree I put them under. Usually at this point, I have already potted them up from starter trays to individual paper cups. I am gradually acclimating them to more sunlight as well as slightly cooler temps.

If the nighttime temps in mid to late-September are dipping down pretty cold, I might put the plants up on the porch overnight since they are not used to frosty weather. About once every 5 or 6 years, we will be surprised by an early light frost in very late September. THAT is what I am worried about.....the very first frost freezing plants raised in warm weather that are not very well acclimated YET to cooler weather.

I try to get the plants in the ground in early October if the really hot weather is NOT hanging on. They will then gradually become more and more used to the cooler nights and are at less risk of freezing. If a blue norther blows in and drops the temps a trememendous amount, and I think the plants are not hardened off to cold weather, I will cover the plants with a scattering of leaves, or a sheet or whatever is handy. Once the plants have weathered a few cold nights, you don't have to worry about them anymore. However, even cool-season plants WILL freeze fairly easily if they haven't been hardened off in cool weather.

People know their greenhouse or house-raised spring seedlings must be hardened off in order to survive outside, and they know the hardening off applies both to exposure to light and exposure to a range of temperatures. A lot of people, though, forget that seedlings raised outdoors in the heat have to have time to adjust to increasing amounts of cool temps or they can be damaged by the cold. A failure to harden off seedlings is often the reason that plants die suddenly after they are planted outside--they were not prepared for the change in conditions from cool/inside/little sunlight to hot/outside/full sun, or whatever.

In other words, you use the hardening-off process to acclimate them FROM whatever growing conditions they have been in TO whatever growing conditions they will be growing in with regards to both sun light exposure and temperture exposure as well.

Dawn


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