September is the perfect time to plant your first fall garden.
Whether you're starting from seeds or using transplants, there are many benefits to gardening in the cooler months. Fall gardens tend to need less attention due to cooler temperatures. In the summer, the heat puts a serious strain on plants --especially down here in zone 8--, but as those temperatures descend from blazing to moderately sweltering, you’ll be able to take your watering schedule from twice a day to only once. Possibly less if it’s rainy. And possibly best of all, most of the insects that plague your garden all summer long have gone back to the fiery depths where they belong until next summer.
The first thing you want to do when starting plants from seeds is to determine what you want to plant. Some fall crops are frost hardy to a certain point, meaning that they can take a frosty night or two, but not an extended period of below freezing temperatures. Some crops are cold hardy, meaning they are mostly unbothered by cold weather, and even may thrive in the icy winds of mid- to late winter. Some plants may not be frost tolerant at all, but if they have time to mature quickly, they will be fine as long as you cover them properly. Any of the crops can be successfully grown through fall and into winter as long as you plan accordingly.
Next, you need to determine when to start them. Listed on each pack of seeds will be all of the important information you need about that plant, from the amount of sun they need to how much space is required between seeds and how many days it takes for that plant to produce fruit. If your seed packet says “60 days to maturity” then you can expect to see fruit around 60 days after you plant that seed.
It’s also very important to check your frost dates before you start planting. If your first frost date is on Oct. 1, and the plant takes 100 days to mature then, ideally, you want to get those seeds started at least 100 days before Oct. 1. If you’re short on days before temperatures drop below freezing, make sure you have a plan in place to protect your plants from those icy nights.
The first frost date from Itawamba County is Oct. 24, which means there are 46 days from now until the first frost.
Now that you’ve pulled out all those withering summer veggie plants, let’s talk about what to plant in their places.
Carrots are a cold weather loving crop that even benefit from a kiss of frost which will make their taste slightly sweeter. Most carrots mature in 70-75 days, but there are many dwarf varieties that mature in less than 60 days.
Mustard Greens are typically ready to harvest in about 45 days and don’t mind the chilly weather. In Zones 8 and up, it’s not unheard of to harvest mustard greens from spring plantings through Nov. and even Dec.
Cabbage takes around 60 days. While they will have a hard time pushing through extended periods of freezing weather, they can take a frosty night two. It may burn the outside leaves, but it shouldn’t kill your plants.
Not only are brussels delicious, but they are tough. Not only are they incredibly cold hardy, but like carrots, their flavor is enhanced by the frost.
Radishes are fast and easy growing. Plant in succession every 10 to 14 days to keep from harvesting all at one time.
Beets are very cold tolerant and are known to survive multiple nights below freezing. Don’t forget that the leaves are edible too!