Planting transplants in the fall vegetable garden


A section of a perimeter bed planted with calendula, swiss chard, broccoli, leeks, collards and fennel

Often come September I am anxious to be done with my vegetable garden for the year, worn out from months of weeding, watering, harvesting and trying to do something with all of that produce. But this fall I am making the effort to extend my vegetable garden into the early winter months. I have a home vegetable garden but also cultivate the Civic Garden Center’s “Landscaped Backyard Vegetable Garden,” which is a mix of perennial flowers, perennial edibles and annual edibles, laid out mostly in perimeter beds and islands. I have Charles Griffin (farmer at Enright Ridge Urban Eco-Village CSA) to thank for enthusiasm, planting dates and years of experience growing fall crops, which he shared at a recent CGC class.

Today’s post will focus on plants that do well transplanted into the fall garden as young plants (as opposed to being started by seed in the garden, which will come next).

Brussel sprout transplant surrounded by daylily mulch

The Brassica family, often called “Cole crops,” includes brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi and collards, all of which prefer the cooler weather of spring and fall to the hot temperatures of summer. Fall is their ideal season as they all taste sweeter and milder when harvested after the first frost. Many nurseries sell seedlings of these plants, or you can start them from seed indoors mid-July to early August to plant outside in late August or early September (better get on that!). One reason to start these plants indoors is to give them protection from the large plant-eating insect populations that have built up all summer and are hungry for tender young leaves. Spraying them with a little Neem Oil or BT (both organic insect control products) when you plant them out, or covering them with row cover, will give the little guys a fighting chance against the bugs.

Leaning tower of brussel sprout

I mulched my transplants when I planted them to try to help confuse the flea beetles (which are tiny hopping beetles that live in the top layer of soil and make tiny holes in leaves). Since I forgot my straw that day, I looked around the garden to see what I could use for mulch. A lot of the daylily foliage has dried up in the heat so I pulled off the dead stuff and made my own mulch… voila! A couple days later, one of my brussels had been chomped down to the stem, but all of my other transplants were looking good. I’ll be interested to see if their late fall size can rival the leaning tower of brussel I planted in the spring and is still producing sprouts. The silvery sheen on the leaves is the plant’s way of keeping itself cool by reflecting sunlight. I told you they don’t like it hot!

-Ryan Mooney-Bullock

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