Fall Vegetable Gardening

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It’s time to plan your fall vegetable garden

The summer heat hit us quickly this year, and many gardens are going in full swing. We often think that summer heat and vegetable gardens go hand in hand, but did you know that you can plant a fall garden and still harvest late into the year? July and August are prime time to plant in our area to begin a garden that will be happy in the cool months and help keep your diet full of fresh, home-grown vegetables.

If you’re new to fall gardening, don’t be afraid to give it a try. You will want to choose cool season crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens, spinach, turnips, carrots, etc. Fall is often a great time to put out onions and garlic to overwinter. Many of these vegetables grow well from seed in the fall, but pay special attention to keeping them moist, since this is typically a very hot, dry time of the year. You may consider covering the seeds with wet newspaper or vermiculite to help them stay moist during germination. A little shade might also be useful to keep them from drying out too quickly at first. If you plant your greens every two weeks, you will have delayed harvesting throughout the fall, rather than one giant harvest at once.

When you think about where to plant your fall garden, using a tiller can be an option if you have a spot in the yard that you’d like to cultivate, but there are several other options. Building raised beds are a great way to get around tilling and still have a localized spot in the yard for your garden. You can build beds out of wood, blocks, bricks, or simply mound soil higher so that it’s easier to reach. Traditional containers and salad boxes can also be a great way to grow food, as long as they drain and are large enough to accommodate the plant you’re growing. For a temporary solution, you can plant right inside pre-wet straw bales, and you can repurpose containers from around your house, as long as they have holes for drainage. Another often overlooked option is to plant vegetables in your flower beds in your yard and around your house. Growing food between your flowers is a great way to keep it close and keep maintenance more manageable.

Fall vegetable gardens can be even more susceptible to pests than spring gardens, so you will want to manage your garden wisely. Make sure you check on your plants often so that you are alerted at the first onset of any pest or disease. That allows you to make choices quickly on how to deal with it before the damage becomes too severe.

Growing food at home is a great way to add some fresh vegetable to your family’s diet, and it can be a fun, rewarding activity. With a little initiative, you can be growing vegetables into the fall and early winter to extend your growing season. If you have growing questions, give me a call at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Catawba County Center (828-465-8240) or look for upcoming classes.