Leafy greens rule the shoulder season garden... these ones are looking so great photographed well into fall.
Often the only reason not to have tried something is not knowing how truly simple it is. This definitely applies to fall gardening. When it comes down to it, many of the common challenges of summer gardening just go away for fall: watering, weeding, feeding and pests are all much less involved during the cooler shoulder season and yet, you can still enjoy significant harvests.
There are three basic rules of thumb when it comes to fall sowing, each of which helps align expectations and opportunities:
First, timing. For fall crops to be productive they have to establish while days remain fairly long, but also align with the start of cooler night temperatures. This typically means sowing mid-August through Labour Day weekend in our area.
Second, the best options are always going to be shoulder season crops that prefer cooler temperatures. The great thing is that many of these varieties only do well during the shoulder season, so fall is the time to enjoy the best spinach, kale, mustards and many lettuces!
Third, plan for baby greens rather than full-sized plants, especially when it comes to herbs and head-forming lettuces.These pots are set to be planted on August 13, 2022. We'll be harvesting from them right into October without any special protection from cold (some exceptions would be tender herbs, like basil, which last until frost).
Fall greens can be sown into a regular garden bed, raised bed, half-barrel or any good-sized container with drainage. We grow all of our fall gardens in pots using a mixture of 25% Sea Soil and organic Pro-Mix, which provides all of the nutrients for the entire fall growing season (no extra fertilizing required).These baby lettuces will fill out the entire bowl in a few weeks. For a no-brainer approach to sowing these greens, I usually plant about half a pack into a 12" bowl and a full pack into a larger pot. So much better than buying lettuce at the store!
The process of planting is ridiculously simple. Pre-soak the soil, sprinkle the seeds onto the surface and either gently pat them into the soil or add a very thin layer of soil over top, then lightly re-water. As we head out of summer, most leafy greens will do best in the sunniest location you have - but between now and September it is best to tuck them more in the shade (shelter from afternoon heat).
Most fall crops will germinate quickly, even in as little as a few days. Keep an eye on soil moisture during germination, as you don't want things to dry out too much (once established, watering is less of a concern in late summer/fall).
The highest priorities for sowing sooner rather than later are herbs like basil and dill, which really are warm-season plants and need the summer heat to bulk up ahead of fall.
Although I've mostly talked about leafy greens, carrots, beets, radishes and broccolini are all amazing August sowing options as well. Cold tolerant flowers, like calendula and snapdragons, are worth sowing earlier... so mark mid-July on your calendar to sow some fall flowers next garden season!
Need seeds? We have 90+ varieties for August sowing organized into a collection online, and these are on SALE until August 21st! Need more info? You can always drop by Sage and we would be happy to help. We'll also specifically be talking about fall sowing at the upcoming FREE Garden Club dates. Another resource that is free and easy to access is Dave's podcast, the Grow Guide, which is available on all major podcasting platforms.
Wishing you a productive fall garden this year!