Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Much Ado About Beets or It's Fall Planting Time

I noticed in Johnny's Seed catalog last week that they have little graphs for each vegetable variety that show what soil temperatures are best for germinating seeds. I have never seen them before. I do not know if they are new or I am just unobservant.

This is extremely useful information, especially this time of year when seeds for fall crops need to be sown and it is still hotter than the hinges of hell. Take beets. In the past i have sown beets in the ground in mid to late September. I rarely got beets until the following spring because they ran out of warm growing days before the roots formed. Well, Johnny's little graph tells me that they germinate best when the soil temperature is 86º. That is quite warm. I went out a little earlier with my instant read meat thermometer and did some research. Of course i have no idea how accurate my thermometer is so take this with a grain of salt (whatever that is supposed to mean). Bare soil in the sun was about 87º. Soil under wheat straw mulch in the sun was about 82º. Soil under the lima bean trellis where the sun never shines directly was about 77º. Clearly there are differences depending on the environmental conditions. So the conclusion is that I need to plant my beets this week! The seed package says they will be ready in 55 days so i should have beets by mid to late October. Yiippeee! I had planned on planting carrots this week but carrots ideal soil germination temperature is 77º so i will wait a while before planting them.

Today i planted several different brassicas in flats. Broccoli, collards, mustard, kale, napa cabbage. Self-seeded mustard came up in the garden several weeks ago so I know it will germinate fine. According to Johnny's graph, and my personal experience, broccoli likes cooler soil. Collards, napa cabbage and kale like it hot. I set up some shade cloth to provide some shade for the flats. They will germinate in 3 days then i will remove the shade cloth and watch them grow.

2 weeks ago i seeded arugula in the ground. It is up and growing well in a bed partially shaded by other tall plants. Komatsuna 'Summerfest' i seeded last week and it is up and doing well. Tokyo Bekana greens and Tokyo market turnips that is sowed on Sunday germinated last evening. That was quick.

Apparently there is a worldwide shortage of Hakurei Turnip seeds. I cannot find a source now. Johnny's rep told me it would be late this year before they would have any. If anyone knows of a source for it please share with me.


Lindsey said...

how did you know Kyla and I were just talking about this? ive been wondering about the ideal time to plant fall crops- esp lettuce b/c they are known to germinate in cool temps but dont want the winter freezes..... didnt know beets prefer warmer soil for germination, but now i know what we'll be doing at sugar creek this afternoon!

Pattie Baker said...

Rod, the 81-year-old organic farmer at our garden, planted lettuce seeds the first week of August last year, in a bed over which he draped the material you use to fix a screen window. I was sure this was too early and wouldn't work. Well, I was wrong. It worked beautifully. So I may get a screen and try that in one bed. It WOULD be nice to have tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce ALL at the same time.

Anonymous said...


Early August, this year as in past years, is when I first sow carrots and cilantro and indoors in flats black-seeded simpson elite lettuce. To those dependables, this year, I'll also sow pak choy and turnips, anticipating New England-reared mom, who'll be down for Thanksgiving.

Last month, I sowed a range of brassicas to flats, including kales, cauliflower, and broccoli. Target date for setting out these plants is Labor Day weekend.

I'm guessing that last winter's success with carrots had much to do with watering the rows early-, mid- (when home during the week), and late-day, to drop the soil temps a wee bit.

Continued good gardening and thanks for the blogging.