How to Get Ready for Fall Raised-bed Garden in Zone 9A

The Fall garden season in Zone 9A is right around the corner. Although it will still be hot for a while, there is a lot that needs done to prepare. Let’s talk about some of the things needed done to get ready for the Fall garden season.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones

First, just a word on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map. The hardiness zones are based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree F zones. In Southeast Louisiana, we are in Zone 9A. Zones are provided by the USDA to help gardeners understand which plants can survive their region’s climate, especially winter frost/freeze conditions. This help the gardener determine what plants, especially perennials, will thrive in the weather conditions of their zone. This, combined with the first Fall and last Spring frost dates, are also critical. For late Summer, you will need to select and start vegetables (annuals) that you can harvest by the first Fall frost date unless they can withstand a frost.

USDA Plant Hardiness Map of Louisiana

See link to USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Maps (National, South Central US, ).

LSU AgCenter – Planting Guide

The LSU AgCenter publishes a vegetable planting guide providing valuable information to help Louisiana gardeners understand the optimum time to plant different types of vegetables, spacing, depth, days to maturity, etc., along with recommended varieties. This information, combined with the hardiness zone and frost date information, provides critical information needed to plan which types of vegetables you want to plant in you Fall and Spring garden and when. All states have something similar so I’m sure you can just Google it.

Plant from Seed

In my garden, I plant everything from seed, because I like to plant more of a variety than what I can get at the local nursery. I already have seeds that I’ve saved or were purchased from last Fall. I typically buy my seeds from either Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds or Seed Savers Exchange as I love their huge variety. However, any online seed vendor or your local nursery will work.

For my Fall gardening, I usually start vegetables like cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower off in small 4″ plastic seedling pots outside. They are placed where they will receive some sun but not too much. I do this so I can grow them without pressure from the intense heat then I’ll transplant them directly into the garden as they get a bit bigger (and hopefully, it cools off a bit).

Fall Garden seedlings for Zone 9A
Fall Garden Seedlings
Fall Garden seedlings for Zone 9A
Fall Garden Seedlings

Amending the Soil

We need to make sure the soil is prepared to support another season of plants. The soil must be loose and friable, drain well, and provide both the macro- and micro-nutrients that the plants need. Remember that I had plants here during the Spring/Summer so they “used up” nutrients so we’ll need to put some back. Because of this, I’ll work in some of my own compost from my compost tumbler, along with composted cow and chicken manure, mushroom compost, some perlite, and some sphagnum peat moss to increase quality and volume of soil. I usually mix in a little Azomite Rock dust because I want a micro-nutrient boost.

Note: The magical mix for great soil is 1/3 sphagnum moss, 1/3 vermiculite or perlite and 1/3 compost (3 – 5 different sources of compost). My raised beds that started with this mix still outperforms those where I used garden mix from the local nursery. I have been amending the soil in those beds so they are catching up but the original beds with this mix still have the best performance.

Amending the Soil
Amending the Soil
Amending the Soil
Amending the Soil

Direct Sow or Transplant

Some seeds do better if they are planted directly into the garden soil as opposed to being planted in a pot, then transplanted. The root structure of some plants will not withstand the impact of removing it from the pot then re-planting into the garden soil. For example, most root plants like beets, radishes, etc., will do better if sowed directly in the garden soil and not in a pot.

Direct sow seeds in garden
Direct Seeded in the Garden Soil

Darrell’s Lineup for the Fall Garden

I will plant a variety of vegetables over the next number of weeks. For some, I will plant again a few weeks later (succession planting), so I can keep harvesting throughout the winter, especially plants like lettuce, peas, etc. This includes:

TypeWhen to PlantDays to Maturity
Beets8/15 – 10/155 – 60
Broccoli8/15 – 10/1570 – 90
Brussel Sprouts8/15 – 10/1590
Cabbage8/15 – 10/1565 – 75
Carrots9/1 – 11/170 – 75
Celery10/1 – 11/1210
Cauliflower7/1 – 10/1555 – 65
Chinese Cabbage7/15 – 10/160 – 80
Garlic10/1 – 11/30210
Greens, Collard3/15 – 10/175
Greens, Mustard8/1 – 3/1535 – 50
Kale9/2 – 3/1560
Kohlrabi8/15 – 10/3055 – 75
Lettuce8/15 – 9/3045 – 80
Peas9/1 – 9/1560 – 70
Radish9/1 – 11/122 – 28
Spinach10/1 – 2/2835 – 45
Swish Chard8/15 – 10/3045 – 55
Turnips8/1 – 2/2840 – 50

Success in Fall Gardening

We can grow year-round with the mild weather we have here in Zone 9A. As a gardener, be aware of what plant hardiness zone you are located in and become knowledgeable of what that means, along with the first and last frost dates. In addition, find out what local planting guides are available that will give specific direction for your location. Therefore, if we know what and when we can grow, we’ve amended our soil, started seeds when needed, and take care when transplanting plants, then we will have a successful Fall garden.

Please let us know how you like this post or have suggestions on future posts. If you have any questions on any of the plants discussed, feel free to drop a comment.

Enjoy! Remember, if you can dream it, you can do it!

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Roasted Salsa Verde – From Garden to the Jar

Salsa Verde is a sauce or salsa made from tomatillos that you might recognize as that delicious greenish salsa you dip your tortilla chips in at your favorite Mexican restaurant.  Other common uses include as an enchilada sauce, salsa for tacos, and a cooking sauce for chicken, pork or fish.  There is nothing more satisfying than growing your own produce, using it to cook up something delicious and canning it to last throughout the year.  This post will show you how to do just that.  Please see our YouTube video for more information on how to make Roasted Salsa Verde.

Tortilla chips with Salsa Verde
Eggs and Bacon – with, of course, Salsa Verde

Each year I grow tomatillos in the garden to use for my Salsa Verde.  I start the tomatillos from seed about 6-8 weeks before the last freeze in my area of Louisiana, which is Zone 9A.  I grow Amarylla (yellow), Verde (green), and Purple Coban (purple) types of tomatillos.  They are very prolific and produce lots of golf ball sized or smaller fruit and will keep producing until fall.  You know when they are ready to be harvested when you see the outer papery husk splitting showing the ripened fruit.  They can be found at most grocery stores and some farmer’s markets if you can’t harvest them from your home garden.  You will need about 2 lbs of tomatillo’s. Other items from the garden include 3 to 4 jalapenos (seeds removed), 2 medium sized onions, 2 bell peppers and 4 to 5 cloves of garlic or fewer if you use elephant garlic.

Ripe Amarylla Tomatillo from the garden
Unripe Tomatillos growing in the organic backyard raised bed garden

The first step in the cooking process include roasting your tomatillos and other vegetables.  Tomatillos can be roasted whole or quartered, depending on the size.  I put the tomatillos and other vegetables on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil, sprayed with olive or avocado oil.  I put them in the oven and roast them about 10 to 15 minutes on 550° F roast setting.  I keep an eye on them to make sure they are getting a bit of char on them while not burning.  Char, not burn, equals flavor.

Roasted Tomatillo’s
Roasted onions, bell peppers, jalapeño’s and elephant garlic

Next step, I put all the vegetables and their juice in my Ninja blender and blend to a slightly chunky consistency.  You can blend it to whatever consistency you desire.  Transfer over to a non-reactive pot on the stove.  Add in a 1 cup of distilled vinegar, juice from a fresh lime, and finely chopped cilantro.  Add about a teaspoon of  ground cumin, a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix it up and bring the Salsa Verde up to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes or until desired consistency is achieved.

Note: This version of Salsa Verde is not a green as typical as I used red and yellow bell peppers and jalepeno’s. Don’t get hung up on the color, rather focus on the taste!

Salsa Verde cooking on the stove
Salsa Verde cooking on the stove, with fresh cilantro about to be stirred in

Meanwhile, prepare your jars by placing in boiling water or in your dishwasher.  I use a pressure canner myself but have used the boiling water canning process as well.  Pour the hot Salsa Verde into your hot jars using a canning funnel leaving 1/2 inch minimum of head space (from top of jar to the level of the Salsa Verde).  Always use a clean and new lid.  Finger tighten a ring onto the jar. Carefully lower the jars into the hot water bath with at least 1 inch of water covering the jars.  Process the jars for 20 minutes.  Remove from the hot water and allow to cool completely.  You should here a “tink” as the jars start cooling.  If one of them does not, you will want to refrigerate that jar and use within a week or so.  Also, please make sure you label your jars so you know what it is and when it was canned. Otherwise, the Salsa Verde will be good for up to a year.

The canned Salsa Verde along with some others from the garden.

Now, with your favorite beverage, pop open a bag of chips, and indulge in something made with your own two hands.  Please let us know how you like this post or have suggestions on future posts. Please visit our YouTube channel for video content of this post.

Enjoy! Remember, if you can dream it, you can do it!

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