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Prepping the Fall Garden..

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Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 8/1/2011, 3:03 pm

August 01, 2011..



Earlier I popped a couple quick threads on fall gardening. Of course, heat and a wicked summer put my plans on hold. For St. Louis, this was the 4th hottest/driest July on record. So, not much happened for summer veggies, let alone getting cooler season veggies started.



I had read that lettuce won't germinate when soils get above 75°. That prompted me to go outside and put my meat thermometer in the garden soil. I put that probe about 4 inches deep. Within two minutes, it was reading 96°!! Beans are about the only thing that will germinate well at that temp, and even they experience a drop off in their success when things get that hot.



This made me think about my calendar. For those of you that are new to SFG and are wondering about getting 3 seasons (Spring, Summer, and Fall) of gardening in, the calendar is your best friend. Just like in spring, we need to know our average frost date for our location. We are looking for the "average first frost/freeze." That day will determine, by counting backwards, when we plant which plants. For instance, lettuce is ready to harvest in 7 weeks. Count backwards 7 weeks from your first freeze (since lettuce is a bit cold hardy), and you will find the last day of the calendar year in which you can sow your lettuces. Of course, we will stagger these plantings to both ensure a decent crop and to gamble a bit with Mother Nature (sometimes she arrives late and we would love to position ourselves to take advantage of this opportunity). Here is the calendar I use. Just put in your zip code and watch your dates pop up. http://davesgarden.com/guides/freeze-frost-dates/index.php?q=63126&submit=Go



If you look at the link, you see my location already typed in. My 50% frost date in fall is Oct 29. My 50% freeze date is Nov 9. So, I call it Halloween for easy remembering. Broccoli is a 12 week veggie. So, mine needs to be started by the 8th of August to get a harvest by Halloween. Spinaches and lettuces can wait until after Labor Day down here. Again, just pick your veggie and work your way backwards in your calendar once you know your frost date.



I promised I would chronicle what I did when I got started, so this will be a long post. This weekend, I started my lettuces. I have some summer squares looking shabby, not bolting, just looking really stressed. I plan to give new seeds a couple of weeks indoors before transplanting. Hopefully, the heat breaks in the next 3 to 4 weeks before I am forced to set things outside.



Sidebar: I would suggest to everyone that they find a way to get a small seed starting station built. They really don't take a lot of space if kept small. I've seen flourescent lights propped up on VHS tapes. Flourescents come in 24 inch lengths, too. If there's a will, there's a way. And, having a small station is critical to starting a fall garden, imo, when the soil temps are in the 90s. Stations also allow you to hit your spring frost date running by starting your seeds indoors a few weeks early. Seriously, give it some thought if you are interested in extending your seasons OR maxxing out your harvests.



I was going to start in vermiculite, but couldn't since I will be keeping my lettuces inside for a few weeks. Vermiculite starting, imo, is best used to sprout things and get them into the garden asap. Uppotting is fine, but I just grabbed a flat I used in spring and took MM from my fallow summer squares.







I turn my light timers back on to 16 hours of daylight. I also place an overlay of foil on the lights to reflect as much light as I can into my plants. Keep the lights as close as possible to the soil/seedlings because we can't replicate sunlight no matter how hard we try. Another thing to note is I am NOT using my heat mat. My basement is 72°. That's plenty warm, especially for cool season plants. I would love to because I'm a big believer in needing a day and night temperature spread to tell the plants to rest, but I just don't really have a choice for fall plantings. Take notice in the picture that my foil is not touching any wiring or the light fixtures themselves. I don't take risks with electricity. I am laying the foil over the wooden frame holding the light fixtures.







3 days later, I have sprouts. Since it's MM I'm dealing with, I have yet to water again from the initial planting.







I plan to describe my favorite lettuce variety here, too, Simpson Elite. Although, you see Salad Bowl in the picture, I have two rows of SE started, too. It's the main lettuce I grow. I will also tell you if I do anything out of the ordinary with it. I pretty much sprout it and let it go, though.



That's enough for now. But, I plan to keep this thread going through the fall. That way, I don't get a jillion threads started and lose track of what I'm trying to describe. As always, if you have questions, for I forget something, ask away or remind me. I'm no expert, but I will gladly share anything I know. The only cost to you is a beer smiley...I thought we used to have one of those.



Happy Gardening!

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  AprilakaCCIL on 8/1/2011, 5:14 pm

Awesome job!!! I don't have a heat lamp, so I'm looking into other options in-order to start my lettuce seeds indoors.

Always find your posts very informative--I Like!!! cheers

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  Denese on 8/1/2011, 6:55 pm

BBG, what type of lights do you have? I've read pros and cons for plain daylight flourescents. Is that what you use, or do you use actual grow lights?

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 8/1/2011, 9:02 pm

1- Thank you. Everybody loves being appreciated. April, look into "seed starting mats" or "heat mats" or something close to that. Ask a nursery, not Lowe's, and they may carry them....especially come spring time. They heat from underneath and do a much better job, imo, because they only increase temps about 10°. Heat lamps can get much hotter and need to be watched a little more closely than I care to over the course of 16 hrs/day, 7 days/wk.


2- My lights are standard flourescent shop lights. And, there's only one bulb in there, not two. Don't let the camera blowing out fool you into thinking they are super bright. I NEED the foil. What I really need to do is mount another bulb on the same section to get myself a "double-wide." LOL. My sprouts are already looking leggy under there, but that's also because I still didn't get the lights low enough despite what I said in the first post. Like momma said, "Do as I say, not as I do," as she toked up at the dinner table.

I've heard mixed reviews about grow lights, full spectrum lights, and a host of other things people try. The people I tend to listen to are the forum guys that actually try and comparison test the lights. I'm not listening to people that have a financial interest in a specific light. I've never heard anyone definitively prove that I need to spend the extra money on the more expensive lights.....so I don't. I roll with my shop lights with my budget still in tact. But, I keep an open mind to things I read every now and then. Someday someone WILL invent a better bulb, ya know?

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  squaredeal on 8/2/2011, 3:28 pm

I use Ott lights and keep them on all day and nights and my broccoli and cauliflower are still getting leggy.


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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  camprn on 8/2/2011, 7:25 pm

@squaredeal wrote:I use Ott lights and keep them on all day and nights and my broccoli and cauliflower are still getting leggy.

Plants need a regenerative period like all living things. Perhaps 14 hours of light and then no light may improve the situation.

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  Furbalsmom on 8/2/2011, 8:42 pm

I use Ott lights and keep them on all day and nights and my broccoli and cauliflower are still getting leggy

Perhaps the plants need to be closer to the lights. I know you can't adjust the height of the light, but you could raise the plants on phonebooks or something.

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 8/2/2011, 9:35 pm

Read this for leggy plants and the concept behind the "rejuvination period" they need. Also, you'll find why I now believe so strongly in a temperature differential. Last spring, my leggy seedlings went super strong with allowing the heat mat to shut off with the timed lights. Nothing about my lighting changed. It was the simplest fix ever. If I felt I could help the lettuce in 82-84 degree soil, indoors, I would plug in the mat....solely for this purpose. I just can't convince myself of soil that warm yet.

http://www.hillgardens.com/seeds-whats-wrong.htm

The answer is not more light. It's mimicking the outdoors as closely as possible.

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 8/4/2011, 7:11 pm

August 4, 2011..



I am trying to do this as I cook dinner. So, I'm multitasking like a single mom with 8 kids (I don't know how ANY of you moms do it, but here goes)...



Lettuces are looking good. Leggy, but pretty good. I'll keep them indoors another week or so and try putting some out. Next week, I'll likely start another flat. Staggering will help me time the breaking of the heat about as perfectly as I can. This weekend, we also start our cauliflower and broccoli for transplanting.



Here is a shot of my garden, currently.





You can see the nice stand I have of Chard on the far right of the main garden (with hoops). Those two squares just keep going. It's great in the heat. I just wish I liked it. Next year, it's been designated for a cover or color crop only.



In the back (trellis garden), you can see the tomatoes and cucumbers. That trellis is 8 feet high and still not high enough.



On the left of the main garden, you can see the vining "bush" beans I planted. They did well, but the heat eventually got them after I skipped not one, but two, days of watering on accident. My tomatoes suffered the same fate; although, they can be saved. My lettuces did fine, though....lol. They are in the middle of the left side. You can see the pretty stand of crabgrass I have going along the border of my SFG, too. It catches all the runoff from underneath the garden and thrives. And, in the very front, almost off the image, you can see just how brown the grass is around here. We really need some rain!



Now, here is my "plan" for the fall. On the left will be two squares of cauliflower. Below them, my radish squares. Next "row" over will be a full four squares of broccoli. Then, alternating rows to load my salad greens of lettuces, carrots (half long varieties that don't require high rises), and spinaches. Finally, on the right, four squares of potatoes. (I'll work on the high rise later.)





I got the potatoes in today. Here is how...



1) Clear out the Chard. When I did this, I found the MM was dry in the unused squares. So, I cleared the MM to the ground. Then, I wet the area.





2) Two trowel-fulls per square of partially finished compost. It's about 75% there and I need it for nutrients.





3) In go the saddest looking potato seeds I've ever seen.





4) Give a good watering with my Automated Drip System aka my youngest son, Chris. He's super jazzed!





We'll see what happens.



PS, dinner came out fabulous, too!

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  AprilakaCCIL on 8/4/2011, 9:55 pm

Where did you get your potato tubers? What kind of potato are they?

Everything looks awesome!!! Very Happy

I planted some sweet potato and forgot to write down when I planted them..now I have to estimate when to dig em' up..lol!

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 8/5/2011, 12:05 am

I saw several 5lb bags of seeds about 6 weeks ago at our local ACE Hardware store. They were on sale for a flipping buck! I couldn't resist. I bought two bags, Red Norland and Yukon Gold.



When I plant something, I grab a popsicle stick and label the square. I put the variety on the front and the date planted on the back. The sticks usually hold together long enough for me to harvest the plants. When I replant, I take the old sticks and compost them...lol.

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 8/11/2011, 4:56 pm

August 11, 2011

As you can see, the fall planting is going a bit slowly. However, we have some gorgeous weather here for a change, and I plan to capitOlize on it (that "o" is for you, Boffer the Spelling Nazi Wink )

I had to transplant my lettuces because they were so leggy they were falling over. All I could do was plant them a bit deeper than they were in the flat and stand them back up. I have to be careful watering around them for awhile, too, since I don't want to knock them back over again.

I also plan to plant some carrots and more lettuce from seed once I get some beans out of the way. However, we are having fun with beans, too, so I may toss some more beans in some vacant squares formerly owned by pepper plants. In the far left of the garden, I will put in some broccoli and cauliflower, too. That far left of the garden is where all the cleaning up needs to be done anyway.

Looks like today will be the day to get after it. And, of course, I will post some pictures as I progress...

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  AprilakaCCIL on 8/11/2011, 10:08 pm

@BackyardBirdGardner wrote:I saw several 5lb bags of seeds about 6 weeks ago at our local ACE Hardware store. They were on sale for a flipping buck! I couldn't resist. I bought two bags, Red Norland and Yukon Gold.

When I plant something, I grab a popsicle stick and label the square. I put the variety on the front and the date planted on the back. The sticks usually hold together long enough for me to harvest the plants. When I replant, I take the old sticks and compost them...lol.

Love the idea to use a popsicle stick as a label ((cool)) To add to the compost bin is a bonus for sure (love it)). Very Happy

You sure did get a great deal at Ace...Hope I can find some sweet deals like that too. flower

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 8/12/2011, 2:11 pm

Here is an updated look at the garden so far as the transition continues...



You are looking at potato sprouts.





You thought YOU had leggy lettuce. I win...



We'll see how that one goes because I transplanted them anyway. Here's a shot of the fact that I planted them deeper so they would stand up better.





I also have direct seeded, because of the cooler weather, 2 squares of carrots, 1 square of radishes, a broccoli, a cauliflower, and another square of lettuce (in case the leggies don't make it). I would show a pick, but it would be like looking at a picture of paint drying.....nothing to see yet.

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 8/12/2011, 2:15 pm

^^ FYI, I have played around with lettuce spacing this year. I have planted 4/sq, 5/sq, 9/sq, and just broadcast the seeds in so they look like one big bush.

I think I prefer 9/sq for leaf lettuces since I like to harvest early and often. Broadcasting worked well, too, but if I ignore them for any length of time, they really bush together. They look great that way, but I really stunt them when I take the scissors to them like a lawn mower and just start cutting whole plants. 4 and 5 per square never fill in enough for me. Therefore, I am constantly weeding those squares to keep the competition down. That's why you see the haphazard spacing in those transplanted squares.

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 8/15/2011, 7:03 pm

August 15th, 2011

Just thought I'd add that some things have sprouted. The transplanted, leggy lettuces are slowly recovering. I have radishes again! And, my Salad Bowl lettuces have popped up. Still waiting on broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots to show up.

But, I went ahead and vermiculite started some stuff today, too. More lettuces, spinaches, and carrots. I should have a dozen fall squares planted soon.

Let's hope the weather holds!

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  trukrebew on 8/15/2011, 11:53 pm

BBG, thanks for telling it straight! (And for keeping it all in one neat place, lol!) You've inspired me to fire up my seed starting area again. It sort of worked last year, but I only have a 12" single tube light under the cabinet in my garage. I think raising the tray and using foil will help a lot.

And, like you, just 4 leaf lettuce plants per square is not enough. I had 8 squares with 4 plants each and the box looked like polka dots in the MM this spring. It's 9 per square for this fall!

Coudn't find the beer drinker, so I hope you like vino! (Or sangria!)
bottoms up


April, any pet store should carry a heat mat. They are sold to put under reptile tanks and come in a few sizes. From what I remember they aren't exactly cheap, though. But like BBG says, it's best to try to mimic Mother Nature's patterns and fluctuations.

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 8/16/2011, 12:20 am

Almost any wine works. Thanks a mill. I'll try and get some pics up soon of the vermiculite starting trays. I intentionally left them outside tonight......let's hope a critter doesn't start digging through them and make me regret not putting them under the netting.

I also need to give an updated shot of the garden as a whole. A decent amount has changed in two weeks. I really hope the heat breaks down south because I wasn't about to go outside and garden in the 100° sauna. And, the second it broke, I jumped out and started gardening again. So much so, my 82 year old neighbor yells, "How's it look today, Farmer Brown?" everytime he sees me in the garden.

With his age, he's practically deaf in one ear. So, because I never outgrew my ornery teenage phase, I speak kindly to the left and fire my mumblings to the right. Thank God he can't read lips like another neighbor of mine. The only way around that guy is at dusk...lol.

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  trukrebew on 8/16/2011, 12:22 am

@BackyardBirdGardner wrote:August 4, 2011..
Now, here is my "plan" for the fall. On the left will be two squares of cauliflower. Below them, my radish squares. Next "row" over will be a full four squares of broccoli. Then, alternating rows to load my salad greens of lettuces, carrots (half long varieties that don't require high rises), and spinaches. Finally, on the right, four squares of potatoes. (I'll work on the high rise later.)



BTW, what is this great lookin' planning tool you've got? I want! I want!

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  Goosegirl on 8/16/2011, 7:15 am

@trukrebew wrote:
@BackyardBirdGardner wrote:August 4, 2011..
Now, here is my "plan" for the fall. On the left will be two squares of cauliflower. Below them, my radish squares. Next "row" over will be a full four squares of broccoli. Then, alternating rows to load my salad greens of lettuces, carrots (half long varieties that don't require high rises), and spinaches. Finally, on the right, four squares of potatoes. (I'll work on the high rise later.)



BTW, what is this great lookin' planning tool you've got? I want! I want!
It looks like the free one I use on gardeners.com. It only has about 50 plants to choose from but when you move them on the the square you want, it shows them in the number to plant per square!

GG

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  littlesapphire on 8/16/2011, 8:25 am

I use that too too! I like that you can save the plans, and even plan out your yard with the garden plans you saved. The spacing per square isn't always the same as Mel's book, but it's still useful.

Here's the site!

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  madnicmom on 8/19/2011, 9:27 pm

I bit the bullet and planted brocolli,brussel sprouts and beets today, hoping mother nature will not realize that she is giving us July weather in August. I'm still holding off on the spinach and lettuce. I'll put the carrots in tomorrow as I'm being eaten alive today.

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 8/20/2011, 10:27 am

My weather got a little hot this week. I got a bit worried about anything sprouting since I hadn't seen anything pop up yet besides my lettuce and radishes. However, I glanced this morning before the rain started and I had all my squares popping up. I should get back out sometime when the light is better and update what I saw.

I would say to plant away. If mine sprouted, yours will, too, especially if you live north of me....which most of you in our region do.

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 8/20/2011, 5:01 pm

August 20, 2011



Here are some pictures of the fall transition...

Vermiculite started lettuces sprouting. My carrots were stolen by a critter and my spinaches never appeared. I'll be starting them again this evening.





A square of radishes that sprouted in spite of the warm week. Below that square, a direct-seeded square of lettuce.





Carrots direct from seed a couple weeks ago just starting to peek through....look closely.





Look at these potatoes!! (on left)





And, finally, my lettuces start to bolt. I planted these squares in May or June and they have suffered all the 100 degree (10 consecutive days) and all the 90 stuff in July and early August. You see Buttercrunch on the far left, Vivian Romaine on the right, and the yellow-green is the Simpson Elite I brag about......note it's not bolting like the others. They were all planted on the same date.





Fall's going great!

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 8/22/2011, 1:34 pm

August 22, 2011

Since you can't tell yet by pictures, I thought I'd include the plan again....and where I stand in conversion from summer to fall.



I got in an finished my "row" of carrots. And, I transplanted the lettuce that was started in vermiculite. I am putting spinach on hold for a little longer because it's likely too hot still.

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Re: Prepping the Fall Garden..

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