Imagine the taste and joy of having lettuce, spinach and other garden crops, ready for picking. This dream can be yours by planting a fall garden. Vegetables harvested in the cool of the year are often better flavored and easier to grow than spring gardens. Even if you do not consider yourself a vegetable gardener give this upcoming season a try.
Fall is an excellent time for gardening and is often overlooked. Fall conditions are ideal and often better than spring for many crops. Cool, crisp days and nights make ideal growing conditions. Many crops can be left in the ground well into early winter and picked as needed.
Crops that are best adapted to fall culture are mainly the cool season vegetables as well as cucumbers, summer squash and green beans. The first frost will damage some crops but others will continue to thrive in the cool weather.
Planting dates are influenced by how long it takes for the crop to develop and its ability to withstand a freeze. Cucumbers, summer squash and beans can be planted from late July through early August with good results. Transplants of broccoli and cabbage can also be planted at the same time. Carrots and beets are planted from early to mid August. Lettuce, spinach, radishes and turnips can be planted in early September for harvest.
One problem faced by fall gardening is the extreme heat and dry conditions. The use of transplants is one way to overcome this problem as they establish quicker than seeds. When planting seeds plant them slightly deeper than recommended for spring planting. This helps keep the seeds cool and moist as they germinate and develop their root system. It may also be a good idea to plant a few extra seeds and thin the crop later as needed to ensure a good stand. Water frequently, trying to avoid compacting the soil and preventing germination. This can be accomplished by placing a thin mulch layer over the seeds or by covering the row with a small amount of sand or compost.
As the fall garden establishes water on a regular basis until the cooler conditions and rains of fall arrive. A light application of fertilizer may be helpful, as much of the spring-applied nutrients have been used up. Fall gardening requires no other special practices or concerns. Weeds are normally less of a problem in the fall.
Set back and watch the plants mature. Harvest when ready and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
About The Author: Dennis L. Patton, County Extension Agent, Horticulture
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