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How to plan for fall crops

Planting root crops in the fall. Carrots, beets, parsnips, and radishes are some root crops that can be grown in the fall in South Carolina. In the upstate SC, where I live, August is a good time to plant carrots, beets and parsnips. Radishes can wait until September.

Carrot seeds are very small and grow deep roots. In preparing the soil, dig it deeply so it is loose making it easy for the carrot to grow straight. They should germinate in 7 to 20 days. Plant about a ¼ inch deep, keep moist. When they have sprouted and grown about 4 inches, pull out the extra plants so they are left spaced about 3 inches apart. They should take about a month and a half to two months to mature. Do not let them grow too long or the root will get ‘woody’.

Photo credit: Ferry Morse

Beet seeds appear to be larger than carrots. They are actually each a cluster of seed. Plant them a half inch deep and keep moist. When seedlings are 4 inches tall thin them to 3 inches apart. (The seedlings you weed out can be used in salads) Harvest beets when about 2 inches across for best flavor. Bigger is not better.

Parsnips have a longer growing season, they may take four plus months to mature. They can be planted anytime between August and October. Prepare soil by digging deeply so roots will grow straight. When seedlings are 2 to 4 inches tall, thin them to 3 inches apart. It is important to keep soil moist and free of weeds. Harvest parsnips when the top of the root is about 2 inches across. The crop can be left in the ground for a few weeks in close to freezing weather. This is said to give the root a sweeter flavor.

Photo credit Monica Grabkowska

Salad crops grow well in cooler weather. Lettuce can be sown in late August (in the Piedmont Region of SC). The seed is small and should be planted ¼ inch deep. Keep soil moist, the seedlings should emerge in 7 days. When the seedlings are 2 inches tall they can be thinned to 8 inches apart. A light mulch is useful in keeping the soil moist and can also protect seedlings from drying out. The leaves mature in about a month and a half.

Collards can be planted from mid July through the end of September (in Piedmont Region of SC). Place seed ¼ inch to ½ inch deep. Keep moist, thin seedlings to at least 12 inches apart. (Thinned plants can be eaten as microgreens. Do not use treated seed for microgreens. When collards are grown as a microgreen, it can be cropped in about 12 days.) Typical collards are ready to harvest in 1 to 2 months.

Other salad greens can be grown in similar ways. You may want to try arugula, kale, mesclun, mustard, swiss chard. They can be harvested as microgreens or mature. Using a mulch can keep soil moist, reduce weeds, and keep foliage free from soil particles.

photo credi:t lulucmy

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