|Master Gardener Ed Schroeder|
If you planned well, were diligent, and have had good luck, you may still be harvesting late summer vegetables. However, another great vegetable gardening season is fall and winter.
Many cool season crops can be planted in September. Fall vegetable gardening is generally more productive than spring gardening particularly when growing root and leafy type vegetables; e.g., Asian greens like mizuna, tat soy, komatsuna (vegetable spinach), etc. Red mustard adds a nice spicy taste to fresh garden salads. The list goes on.
There are fewer insect pests and irrigation is lessened. Pull up or cut at ground level and compost summer vegetable plants that have finished producing. Diseased plants are an exception; They should be pulled and burned or placed in the garbage in a plastic bag. This is especially true for tomatoes. And don’t till them into the soil; you could end up spreading diseases. Cuttings from healthy tomato plants can be planted for a fall crop.
Harvest summer crops such as sweet potatoes, okra, eggplants, peppers, summer peas, and winter squash. If you can provide row cover shade, you can direct seed: arugula, beets, carrots, chard, and lettuce. Sow seeds in flats for scallions, bulbing onions, and leeks for transplant into the garden in November.
This is a good time to get your soil tested. As your fall garden grows, feed the soil organisms and they in turn will provide soluble nutrients to you plants. Apply an inch or two of finished compost. Mulch plants to keep their roots cool and moist.
What to plant now?
This month you can direct seed collards, kale, mustards, and turnips. Plant the seedlings you started early last month for cole crops, and continue to start seeds for later planting. Rotate your crops by planting them in a different bed or row than you did last year. A three-year rotation schedule is recommended.Seeds cost much less than transplants, but if you want to invest a little more and really get a head start on the season put in transplants of broccoli, cabbage, collards, kale.
Again if you can provide some row cover shade, you can put in transplants of chard, and lettuce.Note: Lettuce can be started indoors in pots, cell packs, or flats, in a bright protected location from August through May. Avoid direct hot sun.
- Direct Seed: Putting seeds directly into the soil where they will be grown in place to maturity.
- Transplant: Putting established plants, which were started from seed in flats, cell packs, or pots, into the ground where they will be grown to maturity.
- Row Cover Shade Cloth: Netting or screening used to cover plants in the summer, often over PVC or metal hoops, to create a cooler growing environment. Old discarded fiberglass window screen can be recycled this way. Two layers fiberglass screen may be required. High shifting shade from pines or late afternoon shade from deciduous trees may also serve to provide a little extra protection for the heat of the sun.