This post is Part II in a series on Fall Gardening. Part I can be read here.
I am a seed junkie and shop for seeds the way some women shop for shoes. I spend a good bit of my spare time drooling over seed catalogs and have been known to buy a packet just because I thought it looked like fun to try. At the same time I can go nuts in a nursery. I find an end of the season plant sale and will come home with more plants than I have garden space. This goes for vegetables as well as herbs and flowers.
Over the past several seasons of trial and error in my garden, these are some things I have learned:
When it comes to choosing vegetable crops: grow what you like to eat.
There is no point in devoting garden space, time, and energy to growing broccoli if this is not something your family enjoys. My husband and I love green salads and have one with dinner nearly every evening. We also love greens such as kale, Swiss chard, and collards so much of our garden space is devoted to growing several varieties of greens in all sorts of textures, colors, and sizes.
Choose crops and varieties that are well adapted to your area.
Contact your local extension office or visit with other veteran gardeners about what they have used and what has worked well for them. Just because your grandmother successfully grew a particular variety of rhubarb in her Michigan garden doesn’t mean that same variety will grow just as well in your zone 6b climate or clay soil.
Seed or transplant?
In my opinion, this depends on your level of experience. If you are a well seasoned gardener, then growing all your own transplants is the most rewarding and economical way to go. If you are just beginning, I recommend you consider using transplants or sticking with seeds that are relatively easy to sow. Some crops that are easily started from seed are lettuce, beets, Swiss chard, and radishes. Those that would be easier started from transplants are tomatoes (provided your climate is friendly towards fall tomatoes), peppers, cabbage, and onions (started from “sets”).
Where to shop:
Seed catalogs are fun to browse through and contain a wealth of information. I have had great success with my seeds purchased from Burpee*, Park Seed, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and the Seed Savers Exchange. Alternatively, if you choose to use transplants I would strongly encourage using a local nursery as opposed to a big box chain store. Not only are the nursery staff more knowledgeable, but the transplants are most likely grown in your area and have therefore already acclimated to your zone.
Happy crop selecting!