Time to start fall vegetable garden
By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
Extending the season of fresh vegetables can be accomplished by planting a fall vegetable garden.
The gradual decline of temperatures in the fall and rains create the perfect growing environment for cool season vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collards, turnip greens, lettuce, onions, beets and other cool season vegetable crops.
Early spring cool season vegetables often have problems with unstable weather.
Vegetable transplants are now readily available but some cool season crops can be direct-seeded. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, beets, lettuce and other crops readily germinate in the warm soil. Vegetable transplants are the most reliable method of fall planting and are readily available from many retail outlets and garden centers.The downside of a fall garden is the onslaught of fall insects. Home gardeners planting a fall vegetable garden should be prepared to control immature insects, mostly caterpillars. Caterpillars and worms of all shapes and sizes are out in force, accumulating necessary food reserves before pupating in the soil later in the fall.Natural insecticides such as Dipel or Thuricide (Bacillus thuringiensis) are very effective for control of looper and other small caterpillars. Insecticidal soaps are useful in the fight against aphids which can also be a problem at this time of year. Sevin, liquid or dust, is recommended for control of beetles and stink bugs.
Leafy vegetables normally have weak root systems and therefore need an abundant and constant source of nutrients, especially nitrogen.
Cauliflower, turnips, broccoli and other leafy crops are heavy feeders requiring supplemental nitrogen. After newly planted transplants become well established, usually in three to four weeks, side dress again with half the amount of fertilizer.
Boron is a trace element that helps control hollow stem in broccoli and internal browning in turnip roots. Mix one tablespoon of Borax with five quarts of 10-10-10 per 100 linear feet of row.
Fall vegetables also require an ample supply of moisture during periods of drought. One to two inches of water per week adequately supplies moisture for growth and development of leafy fall crops. Organic mulches help conserve moisture, reducing the need for frequent irrigation. Implementing a drip irrigation system is an excellent method of water placement near shallow root systems.
Cool season vegetable crops tolerate light frosts and actually grow better when temperatures begin to gradually cool. However, extreme dips in weather can severely damage crops or completely kill young plantings. It’s best to plant cool season crops as soon as possible to enjoy the benefits of a fall garden.
Darrell Blackwelder is an agricultural agent in charge of horticulture with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. For archived garden columns or other information, visit the Rowan County Master Gardener Web site at www.rowan mastergardener.com, e-mail Darrell_Blackwelder@ncsu .edu; 704-216-8970; 704-216-8995 fax.