Every year at the beginning of cooler weather I make the same mistake. I am so looking forward to putting autumn and winter vegetables in the garden beds that I start the seeds at home, and also buy the first ones that are available in local nurseries, which do not already seem to lengthen their stems and screw up. It is wonderful to have several nurseries carrying these early seedlings, but difficult to choose the smaller ones, since the persistent warm daytime temperatures will not send your hormones into screwing and picking up the seeds.
Equally difficult is the time to start the seeds in your own garden: starting too early in September or October means bolting them before or shortly after transplantation. Sometimes I have to start the seeds several times at home before the cooler weather finally sets in, and I also buy a couple of packages of six that are bolted before I put them in the ground.
The schedule of installation of manure and compost and all other changes in the garden beds before planting the new seedlings adds to the mixture. After years of digging into these extra nutrients and tilth building elements, including my own compost every fall to the depth of my garden fork (about 10 inches), now I put them on the ground I barely loosened with a hand fork (about 2 inches). This new technique allows these deeper layers of the soil, with the exception of the roots that grow there, to remain intact, promoting a continuous development of microorganisms. To say nothing less work!
But you need to wait two good weeks after changing the soil and watering it before planting the seedlings, so that the changes can warm up with this initial excitation of microorganisms, and then so that the heat dissipates to such an extent that the roots of the grafts do not burn.
When my hand is on the ground surface and my finger is stuck in the ground, it is barely warm, suggesting that the temperature is good for the transplant, I gently turn the top two inches with my hand fork and place the new transplants at intervals that allow the leaves of the mature plants to barely touch each other. For lettuce, this means planting seedlings closer than I would plant them in the spring, since winter growth is much slower than in the spring, so I can harvest the outer leaves more often. After transplantation, I water the whole bed to put the plants there, so that the roots come into contact with the soil particles and the pores of the air, which fill with water every time I water.
The trick of timing with these five elements – starting seeds at home, buying young grafts, incorporating changes, waiting for the initial heat and finally transplanting – is the reason why I make mistakes every fall. But this guesswork and redesign is just part of gardening, and hoping that the ultimate game will work for the first autumn harvest and wintering until spring.
I’m here now see transplants guillerettes happy in their beds, and I already saliva in sight to collect five varieties of lettuce, three -, spinach, three -, kale, chard, leek, cauliflower, the broccolini, of bok choy, beets, artichokes, asparagus, rhubarb, persil, coriander and kohlrabi. Yum!