Oct 28, 2021

Gardening in Seasonal Transitions

We’re in a “weird” time of year – a seasonal transition time, if you will. It’s too late for warm season crops here in Central Florida, but it might seem to early for cold weather crops.

I know that sometimes the seasonal transition times might be a little more difficult to navigate when you’re trying to find information on whether or not you should plant something at a certain time in your garden.  I’m here to help!

Central Florida Growing Season and first Frost estimate

The Almanac predicts for 2021 that our growing season in Central Florida is a whopping 336 Days, and our first Frost will be around January 1 (2022). It’s called a “Fall Frost” because in most of the country they get frosts in the actual Fall season!

Seasonal Transitions Tip #1: Consult the Almanac

What is an almanac, you might ask?  So glad you did. 

An almanac takes a very large amount of past data, carefully gathered by region, and (in this case) makes future forecasts based on that data.

One of our favorites is The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which was founded in 1792 by Benjamin Franklin and Robert B. Thomas.  It contains data such as weather, astronomical placement tables, tides, eclipses and other planetary events. From that data it projects data that tells the best times to plant, harvest, and more.  It also has a good dose of (rather dry) humor, so if that’s your thing, you’ll be chuckling as you read it.

Best Days to Do Chart activities in OFA

The “Best Days To” chart in the Almanac has all kinds of weird and wonderful things to learn.  The ones I circled above are the ones that many find useful in the garden. Check out your own copy to see what you might use!

Why do I want you to consult this “old-fashioned” book? Well, it has a track record of being about 60% correct in it’s weather predictions. This will help you answer the question, “will it frost before I harvest or after?” The almanac will give you a good idea so that you can make your plans and project your harvest times based on your planting date.

Considering the weatherperson is only right about 50% of the time (in the 10 day forecasts – the 5 day forecasts are statistically right about 90% of the time), with the almanac’s predictions for the WHOLE YEAR you a better chance of knowing the weather from the time you want to plant until you want to harvest – which is often 90 days away!  This gives you a good chance of knowing what’s coming if you want to plant right now in November.  

If you didn’t get your 2021 The Old Farmer’s Almanac, don’t fret – the 2022 version will be in stock here really soon.  People who have followed the Almanac for planting, harvesting, even for rearing chickens have told me that they have better results when they follow it.  Sure, it’s anecdotal evidence, but hey, every little bit helps, right?

Interplanting current season crops with next season's seeds and starters

If you have an underperforming, spent, or sickly plant from the current season, why not pull it out and plant something in there for the upcoming season during these seasonal transition times?

Seasonal Transitions Tip #2: Interplant next season’s crops with current season plants. 

Just because Fall growing season is “over” doesn’t mean you have to rip out plants that are still producing. This transitional time is a great opportunity to do some thinning of the herd, however.

Maybe there’s some plants that are just sickly or have been destroyed by insects and the like.  Maybe the production has slowed to a point where planting something in its place will give you more yield for your supper table.

You can pull out plants at any time, replenish the garden soil, and replace it with a new plant.  That’s the beauty of gardening, right? We can make our own transitions whenever we choose.

Remember to compost those plants you pull out, unless they are diseased, then I recommend burning them instead of tossing into the municipal waste where they will anaerobically decompose and cause greenhouse emissions.  Also if it was diseased, don’t plant the same family of plants back into that place, because it will likely affect the new plant too.

Sunshine in the garden the 8 hour rule

Many Spring and Summer crops require 8 + hours of sun to flower & fruit to their full potential. This is the basis for the 8 hour rule!

Seasonal Transitions Tip #3: Use the 8 hour rule when choosing next season crops

What’s the 8 hour rule? Well, it’s nothing official really.  It’s something my Dad used as a rule of thumb for the year-round gardening that he did.  And to me, it just simply makes sense. So, I’ll share it with you and you can make your own decision!

The 8 hour rule is simply this:  If the crop you want to plant requires 8+ hours of sun to flower/fruit optimally, then it’s not a Winter crop.  If it does, then it’s a Spring or Summer crop (and maybe early Fall if you plant in August).

What is this rule of thumb based on? It’s based on the length of the days, actually. In Central Florida, days shorten substantially as we approach the Winter Solstice. The amount of time that the sun is in a position overhead (my definition: above the tree line and building blockage) on most pieces of land is cut dramatically, both because of the shortened days AND because of the position of the Sun being more to the south than in Summer.

But this means that Fall/Winter is a GREAT time to grow more delicate things, like lettuces and peas, that only need about 6 hours of sun. 

Leafy greens being watered in the garden

So, if you find yourself in a transition time, like right now in late October/early November, don’t fret. You still have some gardening to do.  Use these tips to help you make your decisions, they’ll help you.

And most of all – experiment and play in your garden. The more you play, the more you learn.  Don’t forget to keep a garden journal to record your successes (and your failures)!

Until next time, Keep Growing!

Marissa

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