Sow Seed for Fall Veggies Now

September 8, 2010 | By | Comments (9)

Bot garden temp 010

For about a month-and-a-half, I’ve been staring at my burned-up flower bed out front, a board-certified cemetery for parched petunias, crispy coleus, and immolated impatiens. What should I do with it now that autumn is almost here? Use it for burning garbage?



Well, that may be OK in the trailer park where you live, but here in lovely Shangri-La Low-Tornado Mobile Home Estates, Judy and I take pride in our yard.That’s why instead of setting fire to plastic milk jugs and old cans of paint thinner, I’ve decided to plant a fall vegetable garden.

I don’t have a whole lot of space — about 20 feet long and 6 feet wide. So I need veggies that give maximum return for the ground they take up. I also want something that’s easy to grow, comes up quick, lasts long into the fall, and pleases my sophisticated palate.

That means one thing. I’m planting salad greens. The ones I’ve planted so far are a mesclun mix, gourmet lettuce mix, arugula, and ‘Bloomsdale Long-Standing’ spinach. I also threw out some radish seed, just for kicks. It’s been warm here (cooling off at night, thank God), and the mesclun, lettuce, and radishes are up in less than a week. I’m counting on warm weather to get them going and cooler weather in the months ahead to make them crisp and sweet. Once the seedlings get a couple sets of leaves, their first meal will consist of a liquid organic, slow-release fertilizer. Should slugs and snails threaten, I’ll counter with iron phosphate, which, unlike most slug baits, is labeled for use around vegetables.

Now some of you are undoubtedly upset with Grumpy for growing mesclun in the middle of such a nice trailer park and considering calling the cops. Before you do, turn off the Jimi Hendrix and your lava lamp and listen. You’re confusing mesclun with mescaline (a hallucinatory chemical contained in a Mexican cactus). Mesclun is a mixture of savory salad greens, such as rocket, radicchio, endive, escarole, and mustard. A bag of this stuff in the grocery store costs a fortune — probably as much as mescaline (although Grumpy has no idea!), which is a good reason to grow it yourself.

Some folks like to sow salad greens in a solid block. I prefer to do it in rows, because I’ve slanted the rows to make them look artsy. Spinach seeds are pretty big, but the seeds of lettuce and some other greens are tiny. If you want them to come up, just barely cover them with soil. I dug a shallow furrow for each row, sprinkled in the seeds, and then sprinkled a couple of handfuls of potting soil over each furrow and gently watered. It worked.

Seedlings will come up crowded in some spots and lonely in others. At some point, you’re going to have to thin plants to several inches apart, but with salad greens, nothing goes wasted. Throw the thinnings right into the salad bowl and enjoy.

If Grumpy’s salad garden performs well this fall, Grumpy will let you know about it. If it doesn’t, he will remain silent and sullenly burn some garbage.


  1. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Just spent 5 days in Dallas where it felt like the jungles of Belize. Still my little seedlings survive, thanks to the efforts of my son and the motivation of the $$$ I promised him.

    September 14, 2010 at 2:56 pm
  2. John

    Hi Grump,
    Thanks for the Hendrix advice. I hear that plants like classical better anyhow. Rock on.

    September 11, 2010 at 8:12 pm
  3. Donna

    So glad Grumpy is back from vacation, just as feisty as before. Looking forward to seeing how your garden grows. How the weather gods are with you.

    September 10, 2010 at 1:49 pm
  4. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Hey Jim,
    I shore will take your advice. Think some ranch dressing will help?
    Yes. Salad greens grow just fine in pots and they look pretty too, especially if you combine them with cool-weather flowers, like pansies and violas.

    September 9, 2010 at 2:23 pm
  5. Valerie

    Can I grow these in pots?

    September 9, 2010 at 11:40 am
  6. Valerie

    Can I grow these in pots?

    September 9, 2010 at 11:40 am
  7. Jim Long

    Hi Grump,
    Me an my buddies smoked us some of that mesclun stuff you recommended.
    We stole it from the trailer park next door. Don’t much like it. Scooter’n Chance both said it tasted like that black lettuce outta the back of the fridge that Earleen made the salad out of. Figure them other things you recommend might taste better. Just taste it before you recommend anyone else smokin’ any of that mesclun, though.

    September 9, 2010 at 11:01 am
  8. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Well, either your seeds will sprout just fine when the storm passes or you’ll have to plant all over again. Either way, you’ll have nice, moist soil!

    September 8, 2010 at 5:12 pm
  9. Leann

    So… what happens to your very first fall veggie garden if you plant the seeds one day, and the next day and the next day and the next day the rain from Tropical Storm Hermine comes to visit?

    September 8, 2010 at 4:25 pm

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