Planting seeds in the fall vegetable garden

A number of crops just do better when they are planted as seeds outdoors. Many vegetables grown for their roots are like this (beets, carrots, turnips), because any interference in their root development (like during transplanting) directly effects the part of the plant you want to be the healthiest. An added bonus of direct seeding is thinning: once the seedlings are getting big, you can pull out some in areas that are too crowded and eat the thinnings. This gives the remaining plants more room to grow and you a pre-harvest. Legumes like peas, beans, peanuts, should definitely be planted outside as their roots require a relationship with a bacteria present in soil in order to thrive.

You can really direct seed anything, but the following is a list of plants that it is not too late to start outdoors in Cincinnati’s Zone 6 climate (thanks again to Price Hill Farmer Charles Griffin):

  • plant now (early Sept): asian greens, kohlrabi, lettuce, mesculun mix, turnips, carrots, beets, daikon radish
  • plant from now until-early Oct (plants need to be established before first frost): arugula, spinach, lettuce, cilantro and winter peas (Austrian peas).

These fall crops are cold hardy and can be “held in the field” (they pretty much stop growing but will stay perfectly fine sitting in the dirt) into early November. If you want to keep them in the field past mid-November, you’ll want to cover them with a cold frame or row cover to protect them from hard freezes.

We had some leftover seed potatoes laying around the office so I started some in August as a little experiment, to see if they would produce spuds of consumable size before the plants die back in October. I’ll be sure to let you know how they turn out. Here is a picture of one of the little sprouts, about two weeks after planting.

What are you planning to plant in your fall garden?

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