We live in a wonderful place for gardening. The great thing about living in this area is one can plant or harvest something almost year round.
As the summer vegetable harvest is coming to a close, now is the time to start planning the fall vegetable garden. Unlike spring plantings with water and heat issues, fall gardening is relatively easy due to cooler temperatures and late frosts. Second plantings of tomatoes, squash, beans and cucumbers can be done up until Monday. Potatoes (Irish) can also be planted now. This will insure adequate time for maturity before the cold sets in.
There are two major planting periods in our area during the year and the latter one is upon us. Fall planting usually begins in mid-July through early October. Advance or delaying the time of your fall planting can depend on weather conditions and average first frost killing dates. Our average first frost times are typically around Oct. 15.
Traditional winter crops such as root vegetables and greens do very well in our area in the fall. I recommend planting crops such as beets, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale and turnip seeds starting now.
Start with a potting mix to start the seeds in containers, flats or trays. Place the seeds in a partially shaded spot and keep them moist. Seedlings should sprout and be ready to transplant by Sept. 1.
You can also purchase most vegetables as transplant seedlings from many garden centers and nurseries. After the first of September, plant carrots, lettuce, radishes, spinach, and onions through mid October. Asparagus can be planted the latest starting in November.
These are approximate dates. The Extension office can provide you with exact days to maturity, seeds per foot, distance between rows and plants and planting depth.
Make sure your gardening bed soils are amended. If you had a summer garden, chop up these plants with your lawn mower and incorporate them into the new soil with a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10. Remember when amending your soil all you need is three to four inches of compost spread evenly over the area you are planting in once a year and then till it in eight to 10 inches deep.
A soil test can provide you with added information about your Ph, lime and fertilization needs. There can be "too much of a good thing" when it comes to amending your soil, so I suggest you get a soil test every other year to have your Ph and soil nutrients analyzed to stay on target.
Watering and mulching your vegetables is critical to getting them established. Keep an eye out for insects and diseases that can still occur during our transition from hot, humid weather to cooler days. Mulching will help with weed control and help conserve water around your plants.
Lay down a layer of newspaper as an undermulch and then apply mulch in between rows of plants to achieve optimum advantages. Mulching will keep the soil cooler and prevent the plants from touching the soil. Pine needles, peat moss and wood chips are some of the choices. Compost is an excellent organic mulch that contains fertilizer value and soil-like appearance, and can be tilled in to the existing soil after harvesting.
Most of the leafy vegetables and root crops will be ready to harvest in late fall and early winter. Not to mention the added benefit of second plantings of our favorite summer veggies like tomatoes and beans.
It has been a long hot summer. It will be nice to enjoy harvesting cool season crops later this year. Happiness is having something to look forward to: Cooler weather. Happy gardening!
Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.