Time for fall gardening already?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 1, 2010

This year we received more calls than normal about problems in the vegetable garden. So now the questions will be “when should I pull up my plants and prepare for the fall garden?”

Here are some different questions we are likely to get during the next month in reference to fall gardening.

There are several things to consider before deciding what to plant including crop rotations, weather patterns, diseases and more. Here are some basic answers to some common fall gardening questions.

Q: When should I begin preparing a fall garden?

A: One thing to consider in fall gardening is time to harvest time. Just as some spring vegetables don’t perform well in the summer heat; a lot of the plants we harvest in fall gardens do not survive the winter frost, so you need to consider that in your garden plans.

For example if it takes 60 days to begin harvesting a plant, it needs to be planted a minimum of 60 days before risk of the first freeze to get anything at all. I would recommend you begin planting those plants soon that are very susceptible to freeze. Crops like lettuce, carrots and broccoli can be planted later as they handle cold weather better. Some good vegetables to consider for a fall garden include; snap beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, onions, spinach and turnips to name a few.

Q: Should I rotate plants in my garden?

A: The main reason to rotate plants is to eliminate soil borne diseases. Soil carries many diseases that harm plants; whisker rot in okra is a prime example that I have seen in local gardens. Therefore using crop rotation as a gardening practice is always a wise decision. When deciding what to rotate, use plants from groups that are not related. If you have tomatoes planted you can rotate them with cucumbers, squash, peanuts, turnips or broccoli to name a few options. For snap beans rotate with collards, cabbage, eggplants, tomatoes or Irish potatoes. For squash rotate with southern peas, lima beans, collards, mustards or snap beans. By having a good rotation plan you can enjoy garden fresh produce with less problems and more produce.

Q. Can my spring and summer vegetables make it into a fall garden?

A: Gardening in the fall is obviously much easier than gardening in the summer. Fall is much easier on plants partially because there are less disease and pest problems to deal with and the sun and heat is not as brutal. When deciding about trying to carry a plant from a summer to fall garden, the first decision should be to make sure it is a healthy plant, disease and pest free.

Injured plants tend have a significantly lower survival rates when attempting to carry them into the fall. Tomato, okra, peppers and eggplant, if properly cared for during the summer, continue to produce until cold slows them down and frost kills them. It is your decision to try to prune back and get a fall crop; some people are successful with it. However if you are not experienced, I would recommend you take to easier more successful road and simply replant for your fall garden.

For a list of harvest intervals, cold tolerant plants, plants to rotate, or other relevant come by the extension office and get a free garden tabloid through Mississippi State Extension Service.

David Carter is the director of the Adams County Extension Service. He can be reached at 601-445-8201.