It’s hard to believe, but the time for seeding fall gardens is here in North Alabama. Summer gardens are producing at their peak as are warm season weeds and insects. And the harvest needs preserving, too, whether it is yours or bushels of fruit from local nurseries. It makes it a very busy time for gardeners and farmers, when most of us would rather be relaxing at the beach or pool, or taking trips into the cooler mountains. If you are serious about growing fresh food for your household, you can’t ignore the fall season with its nutritious cole crops and long-lasting roots.
If it seems odd to be planting cool season crops when the weather is hottest, you aren’t alone. It’s the opposite of spring planting. In spring, we plant as soon as the soil is warm enough for an acceptable seed germination rate, and hope the crops mature before hot weather comes in and causes the plants to bolt, get bitter, or wither in the heat. In fall, the soil is warm enough for the best germination rates, but we hope cool weather arrives before the plants are mature enough to bolt or cook in the heat, but hard freeze weather doesn’t arrive before they mature. What we are planting now in late July, like cabbage, broccoli, carrots and peas, are plants which take longer to reach maturity. In a month or so it will be time for greens and rapid maturing crops like lettuce, spinach and radishes. You can refer to the North Alabama Planting Calendar for a longer list.
It has been a remarkably mild spring and summer with ample, evenly spaced rain. Whether that means a late summer blast of heat or a long and mild fall is anyone’s guess. For both spring and fall, succession planting can improve your odds of dealing with whatever comes by spreading the risk investment (in seeds and labor) over time which improves your rate of success.
Be heat safe, but get your fall crops in. You can take your vacation in January.