By Barb Delisio
OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer
By the time August comes around, I’m usually pulling things out of the garden and feeling blue because next spring is so far away. Last year I learned about succession planting, and it changed my outlook on gardening. I already knew about cold- weather crops that are planted in late March and early April, but I never thought about transferring that mindset into fall crops.
You need to know a few things about the crops you are planting and the frost dates in your area, as well as prepping the soil for new crops. The soil should be free of weed growth and previous crop residues. Additional fertilizers may not be needed if the summer crops were heavily fertilized. If needed, use an 8-16-16 fertilizer and mix with the soil before the garden is planted.
Another method is to wait until the seedlings have sprouted and apply a light side dressing of fertilizer about 3 inches from the seedlings. The seed packet is your friend as far as planting dates, days to maturity and sun/shade preference.
The first of August is the earliest that fall crops such as beets, radishes, leaf lettuce, carrots and swiss chard, to name a few, should be planted. Some books and factsheets differ on this date, but we have found all of these will produce at least something if planted after Aug. 1. Those seeds should be planted directly in the garden and slightly deeper than spring planting. Sometimes soaking large seeds in water overnight before planting helps them to germinate.
Watering is key. Soils may form a hard crust over the seeds, which can interfere with germination. Applying a light mulch of vermiculite, compost, or potting soil will keep the soil at a more favorable temperature for germination.
Young seedlings may need to be watered more during the first week or two of growth. Do not allow them to dry out. Frost dates are important. In our area, light frost can come as early as late September. Some crops will survive a light frost. Some crops need to be put into the soil as transplants because of their longer days to maturity. The seeds should have been planted in pots around the first of July.
Then around Aug. 1 when the seedlings are hardy enough, they can be planted into the garden.