Almost time to start fall vegetable seeds…

August 1, 2010

Yes, it's about 108 degrees outside, but it's time to start seeds for your fall garden transplants. If you start them during the month of August in Texas (for zone 8 climates) you'll get a good start on your fall garden and have time to plant two or three successions of crops for a winter-long harvest of cool season crops. I'm just going to give a basic run-down of what you can do now. If you're local, you can come to my comprehensive Vegetable Gardening 101 coming up on Aug. 28th at NHG, or attend the free fall seed starting class Wednesday the 12th at 11am (2010) at NHG . You can also refer to my planting date chart on the nhg website.

Warm season crops round 2 (or 3): You can direct seed a second round of warm season crops such as bush beans, squash, zucchini, melons, corn, snap pole beans, pumpkin and cucumbers. You can also still plant seeds or transplants of okra and peppers right now. You can harvest these crops till your first freeze.

Cole crops: Broccoli, cabbage, kale, chard, collard greens, kohlrabi, cauliflower and more. You'll want to start these seeds mid-August indoors with your handy seeds starting equipment. Seeds need supplemental light so make sure to use a good setup. Then you'll plant you first round into the garden in September. You can start a second round of seeds two weeks after the first to have another succession planting. Once your seedlings have rooted into the bottom of the seed starting cell or pellet, you'll pot them up into a 4" size pot to grow a larger root system, then after plants are rooted in, you transplant into your garden.

Herbs: Start seeds indoors of cool season herbs like parsley, dill, fennel. You might want to wait a bit, say end of the month to start cilantro, as even tiny seedlings will bolt too fast in any amount of heat. You can also plant transplants right now of many herbs like basil, oregano, sage, thyme, chives etc. Plant bulbs of garlic starting in September. Seeds of onions (not slips, which should be planted in January) can be started indoors or in the garden in September/October.

Salad greens: You can start direct seeding salad greens into the garden say early September, depending on temperatures. If it's still in the 90's, wait until the middle of the month, then seed into the garden. Remember that lettuce seeds need light to germinate, so don't cover their seeds with soil when you plant them. Simply press them into the surface of the soil and keep moist until germination. You can also start them indoors if you want to get a head start, but they're so easy to direct seed that's usually what I do. Then you can continue seeding salad greens through late fall, and then again starting in February.

Seed starting equipment:I use the JumpStart system from Hydrofarm because the lighting is perfect for seeds, the lamp can be adjusted to different heights, and it's a good for small spaces. We do sell it at NHG. You can use small trays with a seed starting soil mix, or the little compressed pellets from say Jiffy. I use those a lot and they work great. Make sure you have a humidity dome (plastic cover) for your tray. If you're using posts or pellets, make sure you have a water tight seed tray to set them in so you can cover them with the dome. The picture at left is only one example of the many different options available. Sometime you just have to experiment to find the option that works best for you. Also, a seed starting heat mat is necessary once you get into cooler temps of fall and winter, and you're starting seeds for spring planting.

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