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Starting Fall Gardens in Summer

Tips for getting seeds started in the heat of summer.

Q. How can I get fall-veggie seeds to sprout when it's blazing hot (and dry) outside?

A. Some seeds do have trouble germinating when it's hot, but sprout they must if you're going to have a fall vegetable garden. Here are some tips for getting them started:

  • Wet the soil a day or two before planting the seeds, then plant slightly deeper than you would in the spring. Provide temporary shade and cover with straw or a light layer of grass clippings to help keep the temperature down, maintain moisture and prevent crusting of the soil.

  • The limiting factor to planting a fall garden is having plenty of water on hand. You might have to water two or three times a day to keep the seeds hydrated until they germinate.

    To determine when to plant, subtract the number of days to maturity (listed on the back of the seed packet) from the average first frost date in your area. Some semi-hardy vegetables such as spinach, lettuces, Swiss chard, radishes and beets can tolerate a light frost and temperatures down to 30 degrees or so. And some hardy plants such as broccoli, kale and cabbage can handle several frosts and temperatures down to 22 or so.

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