I think the Fall is my favorite season to garden. The anticipation of cooler weather is an obvious bonus after the super-hot Summer. But I think for me it’s more that “we can do this because of where we live” aspect of it. Much of our country will be way too cold to sprout anything by the end of this month (could you imagine?), and we can plant seeds in November and they sprout. It actually amazes and fascinates me.
Anyway, this week in the Blog I wanted to talk about a couple of topics for Best Fall Crop Success. Specifically, how Starter Plants can help you with that success.
Best Fall Crop Success Tip #1: Succession Planting
Have you heard the term Succession planting? It’s the idea of not planting all of your seeds/plants all at the same time, so that you can extend your harvest time over weeks instead of all the plants bearing crops all at the same time.
So, to make this happen, your plantings would have to be spaced apart in time. One way to do succession planting is to start some seeds and starter plants at the same time. The starter plants are more advanced, and will bear their fruits/vegetables before the plants that will come from the seeds. This will give you two distinct harvest periods, which is good!
But you can do even better, extending your harvest even longer. This requires you to make a schedule of seeding every 7-15 days for the same crop. Some of the factors to consider in the schedule include: time of year, germination time, length of time to harvest, if it’s one harvest or several from the same plant. Honestly, it’s a game of experimentation.
For instance, if you know that you can’t possibly eat a dozen tomato plants worth of tomatoes all at the same time, then you could plant four seeds today, 2-4 more in a week, 2-4 more the week after that, etc., until you get to the 12 plants you wanted initially. This works really well when you are seeding in seed cells to transplant into the ground later – it’s easier to see your plants sprouting, keep count of what’s planted, and track your planting dates. (A garden journal is also very handy to track).
Have I covered the idea of Succession planting well here? If you have questions, let me know.
Best Fall Crop Success Tip #2: Starting with Starters
When someone is a beginner gardener – like REALLY a beginner – or just has a super-busy schedule, but still wants to dedicate a little time to fresh air, sunshine, and getting their hands dirty to grow their own food, I recommend starting your garden with Starter plants.
Starter plants from our store arrive strong and healthy. They are ready to pop into the ground right away, but have a little wiggle room if you pick them up on Tuesday morning but you can’t plant them until Saturday morning (with proper watering and light, mind you…no plant is bulletproof!).
We also don’t order plants when it’s challenging to grow them. You won’t see us carrying lettuce in July, because it’s too hot here. That’s one of the ways we help you here at Shell’s – we don’t bait you with plants that won’t thrive in the wrong seasons that will waste your money and time. Questions? Just ask.
When you grow from Starters, you’re skipping the uncertainty of the germination period of seeds. Some seeds can be quite finicky, depending on what you’re trying to grow. Your lifestyle determines if you have the time to deal with them. Some folks just like the certainty of Starters. It’s already germinated. It’s ready to grow into food after transplanting. Done.
Speaking of transplanting, I wrote an article with Transplanting tips in it last Fall that you might find useful. It’s here, take a look!
Also, the easiest gardening I’ve ever done has been in the EarthBOX. Once it’s planted, there’s no weeding, no mess, no fertilizer schedule. All you have to do is water the box through the watering tube on the corner, and you get great growth and harvests. Easy because you don’t even need to have a yard to have fresh produce – a balcony or porch with South, SouthEast, or West exposure will do just fine. We have 3 models of EarthBOX in multiple colors to choose from. If you want to know more about them, stop in and ask us! We’re happy to help.
Best Fall Crop Success Tip #3: Choose the Right Plants for Fall
It’s amazing the number of times that folks are looking to plant things that aren’t suited for Fall growing here in Florida. That list is pretty small, mind you – you can grow nearly everything in the Fall here. Some crops are more successful than others this time of year, that’s all we’re saying.
So, to help with that, at the store we have a Garden Guide that gives you an idea of what to plant when – as of right now, it’s available in-store only!! Worth the trip in my opinion!
Each month on our social media feed we also share the UF IFAS illustrations with similar information. Those posts cover all of Florida – and the Shell’s Garden Guide is specific to our climate here in Central Florida. We’ve just distilled it down a little further. They’re both great guides. Here’s the September UF IFAS illustration if you want to look at it.
Best Fall Crop Success Tip #4: Consistency
If you asked me the one thing that makes people give up on gardening, it’s that they plant all their seeds and starters and everything, and then just let their garden fend for itself. And their garden fails, in one or several rather spectacular ways. After that they convince themselves they have a black thumb and never try again.
Don’t be that person. There’s a method to our madness – promise.
What most would-be gardeners don’t see is the consistent work that their gardens take to maintain. They see the successes posted on Facebook, in Better Homes & Gardens, and all the other bright shiny moments in the lives of other gardeners, without knowing the gritty, dirty, hot, sweaty, frustrating, weed-pulling, soil-amending, full-on effort that actually is gardening.
How do you find the way and the time to balance your obsession with plants with all your other responsibilities? First and foremost, you have to dedicate the time and effort. It has to be a decision you make that is non-negotiable. Then, put it in your schedule. Even if it’s just 5 minutes during the weekdays and 20 minutes on the weekend days, put your time and effort into it. Get some help, and share the spoils.
You’d be amazed what you can accomplish in a CONSISTENT pattern of gardening in 5 minutes a day.
Think of it this way – if you did a solid 5 minutes of all out “Squats-til-you-drop” EVERY SINGLE DAY – how strong would your glutes be after a year? Solid, right? And it’s just 5 minutes of your time.
Side note on this topic: One of my favorite books in the whole world right now is The Compound Effect by Darren J. Hardy. I’ve read it, and listened to it on audio, at least 10 times in the last 2 years. It’s a great reminder that small purposeful actions done consistently over time yield the greatest results – and it’s so successful because so many others don’t do it Success is easy. Doing what it takes to make that success is the hard part because we as humans are NOT consistent. It’s human nature.
Anyway – those are my best tips for success this Fall in your garden!
Gardening is often a frustrating love. But when you hit the jackpot, gosh, there’s no better feeling than eating what you’ve grown with your consistent toil and hard work. And, I can guarantee, nothing more delicious.
Another quick tip – no matter your failures, look for the lessons. Failures happen so we can learn and do better.
There’s no greater education than totally messing up. But only if you WANT to learn from it. Which you should, because it’s the only way to make sweetness from the sour.
Until next time, Keep Growing!