Best Fall Crop Success Tips – Starter Plants

fall crop starter plants success tips

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

fall crop Succession planting starters

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.

succession planting starter schedule fall spring crop
This is an example of a succession planting schedule for lettuce in Portland, OR – they’ve created a great way to plan for an “even harvest” instead of a “bulk harvest”. Notice it takes into account expected harvest dates based on the “time to harvest” of the particular kind of vegetable, and the duration of harvests that you can get. This gives you a schedule so you’ll know what is needed and when!! A great way to plan your garden chores & tasks, right?

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

starting with starters fall crop

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.

fall starter plants at Shell's Feed & Garden Supply
Starter plants are IN for the 2020 season! Come get them!

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

choose the right starter plants fall crop

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

start with consistency fall crop

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.

fall gardening with family
Gardening is great as a family affair – there’s plenty of work to go around.

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. 

garden journal
Garden journals are an easy way to keep track of your self-education in the garden. Making the same mistakes over and over again is the definition of insanity – and it’s easy to forget what didn’t work. Writing it down is a game-changer for future success!

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!


Five Fun Florida Fall Crops

We are gearing up for Fall growing season here in Florida. If you’ve been following our social media then you know that to be true.  August is Fall Seed planting month, so if you want some tips for seed planting in fall, take a look at last week’s blog: Florida Fall Gardening Starts NOW! for more on that.

This week, while you might be making your garden plans, I thought it would be fun to mention Five Fun Florida Fall Crops to consider planting this year, in no particular order.

Fun Florida Fall Crop #1:  Winter Squash

Winter Squash comes in many shapes, sizes and colors, and here in Florida the fall is a great time to plant them.  As the weather cools down you’re going to want to have these lovely squash on hand to roast for dinner, to make soups (see my Butternut Squash soup recipe in this blog post: Delish Dishes From The Backyard).

Winter squash is, in my opinion, easier to grow in the cooler months, because there’s a lessening threat to the vines from insects. You still have to watch for cutworms and other such beasties but when it does finally cool off, they usually go dormant.

Since I mentioned vines, most of the winter squash varieties do grow on vines, so having some sort of trellis system is very important for these lovely things.  If you want some guidance on some trellis-like structures, take a look at the blog from about a month ago on structures you can build in the garden: Useful Garden Structures You Can Build. I specifically dream of a hoop trellis that I can walk under and pick these lovelies from a comfortable position – standing!

Fun Florida Fall Crop #2:  Broccoli/Broccolini/Broccoli Raab

Broccoli is so delicious.  I eat it as much as possible. When I grow it myself it’s an extra special treat!

There are several different varieties of veggies from the broccoli family, and all of them are exciting and delicious. Everyone has had the large heads of broccoli from the grocery store, but have you had the ones that are kinda like broccoli and asparagus had a baby? Long and thin stalks, with broccoli flowers at the ends, broccoli raab and broccolini are delicious and nutritious too.  In many ways, they’re easier to cook too!

All of the broccolis like cooler weather, so we can plant them in Fall, Winter, and very early Spring here in Florida.  Right now, they will germinate fast in the warmer weather, but as they get around to creating their flowers (the broccoli heads that you eat are actually lots of little flowers buds!) it will be cool enough that they won’t bolt too quickly (the yellow flowers bloom).

Did you know that broccoli is in the same family as cauliflower, cabbage, canola (aka rapeseed), kale, bok choy, kohlrabi, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts?  Family Brassicaeae is the Cruciferous vegetables!  Such an important family for vitamins and minerals, as well as the sulphur compounds they contain which have widely been found to be preventative in diseases such as cancer.

Fun Florida Fall Crop #3:  Heirloom Tomatoes

I think that Fall is a great time to plant your Heirloom Tomatoes.  I think of Fall as the time when pests will be diminishing as we reach the colder months, and heirloom tomatoes have a better chance of survival to fruiting when there are less pests.  This is because they don’t have the benefits of hybridization to give them disease-thwarting characteristics like blight and virus resistance.  I also find that bugs LOVE my heirlooms, and there are less bugs in the Fall.

I guess it goes without saying that the more tomatoes I can eat, as many seasons of the year that I can grow them, I’m going to do so.  Do you feel the same way about tomatoes as I do?

Fun Florida Fall Crop #4:  Kale

Planting Kale is so rewarding. So many nutritious types out there for you to experiment with, including decorative ones!  Kale is one of those plants that can be edible AND beautiful, and for that reason alone they will always have a place in my Fall, Winter, and Spring gardens.

Red Russian Kale has beautiful hues of reds and pinks as well as green. Lacinto (Dino) Kale come up dark green with a blue hue, Curly-leaf Kale (like Scots) and Blue Vates that make really fun kale chips and the younger leaves are awesome for wraps or boats (think a leafy taco).  

Then there’s the kale that looks like pretty frilly cabbage heads in bright white with green fringe and dusky lavender centers with green fringe; these ornamental kale are usually used along sidewalks to define garden borders with bright beautiful and interesting color for Fall and Winter flower beds and also as the “Chiller” in the “Thriller, Chiller, Spiller” formula of container plantings this time of year.

Fun Florida Fall Crop #5: Rutabagas & Turnips

OK, I cheated here…I put two into one category.  But I did it for a reason – mainly because they are so very similar to grow, and to eat. They’re so good!  And pretty easy to grow too.

These are cool season root vegetables that can be started in Fall.  They’re a direct-sow for the most part.  Like most root vegetables, you don’t want to damage the root system by transplanting.  Luckily they’re quite easy to sow, and they even space themselves out so you don’t have to do too much thinning.  They literally just push themselves apart as they grow (unlike carrots, which you have to thin or they won’t do much – they’re much more delicate).

Rutabaga and turnips are a great low calorie substitute for potato dishes, with lots of fiber.  You can mash them, fry them, bake them.  I absolutely love making rutabaga and turnip “french fries” in the oven – oil, salt, pepper (or try your fav salt-based steak seasoning!) and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until edges are brown and crispy and the centers are soft.  Flip them about halfway through for even browning (it’s not necessary but it can help for presentation if you’re looking to impress).  They have a slightly sweet taste but it’s not overpowering, it compliments the salt and pepper very nicely.

A beautiful Florida Fall Garden

OK, there’s my Five Fun Florida Food Crops recommendation to try this year.  How many of these made YOUR garden list this year?

Until next time, Keep Growing!