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Once the decision is made to start a vegetable garden, the choice must be made to either sow seeds directly in the soil or to use transplants. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods. Unless the transplants are home-grown 4-6 weeks before they are set out in the garden, gardeners are limited to the selection available at the local nursery. For a fall or winter garden, these will most likely be cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, collards and cabbage. All are easily transplanted varieties that are good producers for cool weather gardens. For other vegetables that don’t take well to transplanting, plant beans, cucumber, peas, squash and turnips either as seeds or start them in peat pots that can be planted in the garden.
Shopping for seeds for a fall garden can be a challenge. Many stores with garden centers, as well as nurseries, will have taken down their seed displays after summer. A good source for late season seeds are feed stores that sell them in bulk by the ounce or by the pound. Popular varieties include okra and the southern peas such as white acre, black eyes and crowder peas.
When planting seeds, follow the directions on the packet for planting depth and spacing. When buying seeds in bulk, a general rule is to plant large seeds like beans 1 to 1-1/2 inch deep; medium sized seeds, such as cucumber or okra, about 3/4 inch deep; and smaller seeds like carrots plant about 1/4 inch deep. For very fine seeds such as lettuce, scatter the seeds on top of the soil and just press them down gently into the dirt or cover with a very fine layer of soil. Water in seeds well and wait about a week or 10 days for them to germinate. Think about the mature size of the vegetables and thin the plants to allow space for them to grow. If you are careful you can tranplant these young seedlings into peat pots to place in other areas of the garden or to fill in if you experience plant failure.