Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Planning My Fall Garden

With the garden languishing in the heat, I’ve decided to turn my attention to planning our fall garden. My first stop in planning our garden is always the East Texas Gardening website. This site is developed by our county extension office and is my favorite resource for planting dates and variety recommendations. Prior to exploring this site, we planted everything in April and just hoped for the best. Of course I never had any success with carrots, lettuce, or potatoes because April is too hot to plant these cool weather veggies.

Once I print out the planting dates, we sit down as a family and discuss what vegetables we want to plant. Then I highlight those veggies, color coding them by the month they should be planted. Once I have a plan, I begin to look for seeds. This year I've heard that, due to the extreme heat, the temperature of the top 6 inches of our soil is around 95 degrees. I plan to call our extension office and see how much difference this might make in what seeds will germinate.

We are learning to grow plants using a natural approach. This is something we are taking one step at a time, but our first step was to begin using heirloom seeds as opposed to hybrid. This means that most of my seed shopping is done online. A few local nurseries and farm stores carry heirloom plants, but few have heirloom seeds. My favorite seed websites are Botanical Interests and Seed Savers Exchange. With my highlighted plant list in hand, I peruse these sites searching for varieties that are known to grow well in my area or that I have had success growing in the past. But, I like trying new things, so I also search for new varieties that grow well in hot humid areas.

Once I have finalized my list I purchase everything I want to plant for both my spring and fall gardens. I find that if I only purchase the seeds I need right now, I will forget to order the other seeds in time to plant them.

With the planting dates noted and the seeds purchased, I turn my thoughts to learning something new. This is where my current favorite gardening book comes in. I’ve blogged about it before because I just love this book: Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening by J. Howard Garrett and C. Malcolm Beck. If we tried to apply everything I read about gardening at once, nothing would ever get done, so I try to limit our experiments each year.
This year our experiments included beginning a compost pile. We also added cornmeal and a purchased compost tea to our fertilizer experimenting and I bought a garlic pepper tea mixture to kill squash bugs, but I’ve been hesitant to use it for fear of killing my beneficial insect population. We’ll eventually find a balance between picking insects off (or shooting them off with water guns!) and spraying natural insecticides. Next year I hope to explore companion planting.
The final step in planning is to actually prepare the garden plot. We have already pulled out all of the cool season plants: potatoes, onions, carrots, and lettuce. The dirt is tilled and ready to be reshaped into beds. We’ll have to decide what needs to be pulled out of the rest of the garden to make room for new fall plants and then we will be ready for fresh plants.
I'm linking up with Briana at The Garden Path. Click here to hop to this week's blog hop and read what other blogging gardeners are doing this summer.



Briana said...

Sounds good! I need to start planning for fall. I'm checking out Botanical Interests which I had never found before.

I hesitate to use sprays, even natural ones, but I did break down and used some homemade garlic spray today. I am laying boards down by the squash each evening for the squash bugs to hide under and will send the boys out to smush them in the morning.

I also need to work on a systematic use of companion plants. Right now I just plant stuff where it will fit and never worry about what it is next to. I do try to rotate crops though.

Thanks for sharing your compost pic! I love seeing a compost pile, don't know why but the potential in the heap fascinates me.

Briana said...

Your comment about my squash bug problem made me laugh! I might have to make a sign which reads, "squash bugs do not like garlic!" to place next to my plants. Well, one positive thing to come from the devastation is that we didn't have to get bored with eating zucchini!