It’s still hot outside, so it might be hard to think of your fall garden now, but August is the official start of the Gulf Coast fall vegetable garden season. Click here to download and print the attached calendar for a complete guide to fall planting for vegetables and culinary herbs.
August is a good time to start your own transplants for many fall veggies such as cabbage, collards, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, kale and similar vegetables. These vegetables like to germinate in soil temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees F. The outdoor soils are warmer than this right now, so start these veggies indoors in bright light and cooler temps. A fall crop of cucumbers, bush snap beans and squash can be direct seeded in August.
Wait until the first week of September to start lettuce, mustard and spinach, but buy your seed now so you will have a choice of varieties. Do this with fall root crops as well – carrots, beets, radishes, turnips and onions. The most popular seeds sell out fast and you don’t want to get caught short.
With many fall crops, it’s best to plan for succession planting. Plant a few seeds or start a few transplants every 7 – 10 days and stagger their planting outdoors. You can extend your harvest season and maximize the temperature transitions from summer to fall and winter.
Before you plant seeds or transplants, work an inch or two of compost and the recommended amount of balanced, slow release, organic fertilizer into your veggie beds. Water them well the day before you seed or set out transplants as well as after planting. This will help seeds germinate reliably and will get transplants off to a good start. It is always a good idea to water the root balls of transplants with a root stimulator before and after planting.
For DIY Veggie and Herb Transplants you will need:
- • Containers (4” is best, but any number of recycled and repurposed pots can be used)
- • Seed starting mix or sifted potting soil (use a soil free media)
- • Compost
- • Balanced organic fertilizer
- • Water
Mix 10 parts potting soil or seed starting mix and 4 parts compost. Measure and add the fertilizer (the amount will vary by brand, but the application rate will be indicated on the package), mixing well. Moisten the entire batch. It should be thoroughly moist, but not soggy. If you can squeeze water out of a handful, it is too wet.
Fill 4” or similar size containers with your amended soil mix. Tamp, but do not compact the media and do not overfill, leave a bit of headspace. Using a wooden pencil as a dibble, make a hole the depth recommended on the seed pack. Drop in the seeds, cover them with a bit of media and water well. For seed that says to plant shallowly, like lettuce, cover with a scant sprinkling of sand. This will hold the seed against the soil without covering it completely. Water well, and LABEL including the date.
Keep the soil moist. Seeds need consistent moisture to trigger germination. Check your project daily, monitoring moisture and watching for germination. Once your seedlings break the soil they will appreciate a bit of root stimulator. Water them with ½ strength the first time, and then full strength the next watering. These seedlings should have sufficient fertilizer from the media to last until transplanting.
If you are not sure about growing your own transplants, you still need to make plans for your fall garden now. See what transplants will be available at the nursery and plan your purchases. Direct seed crops that should be started right now and buy seed of veggies you would like to grow that won’t be available as transplants. You can direct seed them in the garden in September and October when the soil temperatures cool down.