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Gardens on Green tilling up nuggets of wisdom for your fall vegetables

POSTED: September 16, 2011 1:30 a.m.

Although some folks may not think about the cooler months being an opportune time to garden, local experts are proving there’s never a bad time to grow your own vegetables.

"We are very fortunate with our climate being as such that we can really garden year round here," said Danny Askew, Hall County Master Gardener.

Askew was speaking to participants in a recent workshop at the Gardens on Green at 711 Green St., Gainesville. The workshop was sponsored by the Hall County Master Gardeners and the Hall County School System. The weekly series will take place at noon Tuesdays through Oct. 11.

Each week features a different topic. Next week’s workshop will focus on gardening in the shade with Georgia native plants. Other topics include drip irrigation and gardening with children.

Like with most plantings, before you sow your fall vegetable garden, there are several factors to take into consideration. The three key components are site, soil and plant variety.

When considering sites for growing veggies, you want to pick one that gets at least eight hours of sunlight, with an emphasis on morning sunlight. You also want to be sure there’s ample access to water.

"It’s really better to water weekly rather than daily," said Russ England, a Hall County Master Gardener.

While you’re watering your plants, be careful not to go overboard. According to the experts, you only need to give plants about an inch of water at a time.

"If you cover the ground with one-inch of water, you’re going to wet it to a depth of about 7 inches. You can decrease the amount of water you need with mulch," Askew said.

"To be effective in holding the moisture in the ground, you need the layer of mulch to be 3 or 4 inches deep. You want to make sure not to cover up the crown of the plant (or it could rot). You also want to be careful about the type of mulch you use. You don’t want to use green mulch. You need something that’s been aged a while.

"All of the limbs we pick up in our yard, I pile them up. They age for about a year and then I run them through my (wood) chipper. About six months later, they’re ready to use as a mulch. I don’t use a whole lot of money buying mulch for my vegetable garden."

To get the best chances for a good harvest, you should conduct a soil analysis before you begin planting, Askew says. A soil analysis will explain what properties are in your plot and help determine what additions need to be made to the soil before you plant your garden. Although most yards in North Georgia are composed of red clay, Askew says an ideal plot contains sand, clay and silt.

If you need to add compost to your garden area and are planning to use fresh materials, you should till it into the soil at least one month before you begin planting, Askew says. If you are using aged compost, that can be tilled into the soil a day or so beforehand.

"When you till your garden, you want to go about 8 to 10 inches deep," Askew said.

"You’ve got to go deep enough so that the plant roots can go down as deep as they need to."

After your plot is prepared, the next step is to decide which vegetables to include.

"I suggest making a list of your favorite vegetables and prioritize that list because you may not have room to grow everything you like," Askew said.

When selecting varieties to plant, you want to make sure that it is appropriate for this climate during this time of year.

Lettuce, cabbage, onions and various beans are all prime candidates for fall gardens that are planted within the next few weeks.



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