Fall Vegetable Gardening
Even experienced gardeners will often ignore the fact that their gardening efforts can extend well into the fall season, while in certain sections of the world; gardening is virtually a year round endeavor. Extending the gardening season is becoming more critical to all of us because of the changing dynamics in the world’s food supply. This is a situation that we will have to live with for an extended period of time, so it is a good idea to do our bit. The victory gardens of World War II provided 40% of the country’s food supply, proving that we can make a difference.
It is hard to think about planting more vegetables at a time when fresh produce is so abundant in our garden, but late July and early September are good times to plant cool weather crops. Fall plants such as broccoli and cauliflower usually taste better when grown in the cooler weather, while others such as kale and Swiss chard reach their peak flavor after the first frost.
Fall planting requires less work because the soil was worked up in the spring, so a light cultivation is usually all that is needed after removing all the previous crop waste. Place the debris into your compost pile after being sure to remove any diseased vegetation, Top dress the garden with some compost or organic mulch and work it into your soil. Then you can proceed to plant according to recommended methods.
Examples of good fall plants are: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, endive, kale, lettuce, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, mustard and spinach. Do not plant the same crops back in the exact same place, but rotate your crops to reduce potential disease problems.
It is a good idea to consult with your local garden center or your local county extension service for advice on correct planting times for your growing zone.
As the fall season nears, protection for these crops has to be considered. One method is to cover the crops with sheets, plastic sheeting, or mulch which will trap the radiated heat from the ground and raise the temperature enough to protect them from a light frost.
Some crops such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, potatoes, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage and kale are not affected by frost or even moderate freezes and can be left in the garden until the hard freezes set in. Root crops such as beets, carrots, parsnips and turnips can be re-mulched, left in the garden and dug up as needed.
If a hard freeze is predicted, pick the green mature tomatoes or pull the entire plants.
Store them in a dry cool (65 degree) place where they will ripen in about two weeks. Delicate plants such as squash, peppers and eggplant should be harvested and stored in a comparable location as the tomatoes.
After harvesting and while the weather is still pleasant, many chores can be accomplished in anticipation of spring and next year’s garden. Cleaning up garden refuse, adding soil amendments to your plot and making a planting plan of your garden to decide how you want to rotate your crops while this year’s garden is still fresh in your mind, are just three jobs to get out of the way.
Now you can kick back in your easy chair, read the seed catalogs and dream of those prize winning vegetables you are going to raise.
Dick Murray is a retired urbanite who has kept his passion for gardening alive with the creation of an informational web site
. More and more families are beginning to grow their own fruits and vegetables due to their increased concern regarding the quality, price and safety of our food supplies.