Now's the time to think about fall vegetables
By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
A neighbor up the street had a tomato stand with free tomatoes earlier this week, a sign that people either have a plentiful supply of vegetables or they’re just tired of gardening and are trying to give away their vegetables.
The first few weeks of August are critical for those who just can’t get enough and need a fall garden. Now is the time to consider planting if you want to extend your vegtable season.
Declining temperatures in September create the perfect growing environment for cool season vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collards, turnip greens, onions, beets and other cool season vegetable crops. Vegetable transplants are also available from local garden centers and other retail outlets.
Those who plant a fall vegetable garden should be prepared for a deluge of caterpillars. Caterpillars and worms of all shapes and sizes will be out in force feeding before their fall pupating. Natural insecticides such as Dipel or Thuricide (Bacillus thuringenises) are very effective for control of loopers and other caterpillars.
Insecticidal soaps are useful in the fight against aphids. Sevin is excellent for control of beetles and stink bugs, which are often a problem with leafy crops. Many of these are nocturnal feeders, making control a bit of a challenge.
Leafy vegetables such as cauliflower, turnips, cabbage, lettuce and broccoli have weak root systems that need an abundant source of fertilizer, especially nitrogen. Those choosing organic gardening should mix heavy amounts of organic matter to compensate for high nitrogen demand. Blood meal, cotton seed meal, fish emulsion and other organics are a good source of nitrogen.
Newly set vegetable transplants are heavy feeders. Apply five dry quarts of 10-10-10 per 100 linear feet of row. After the newly set transplants become well established, usually in three to four weeks, side-dress them again with half the amount of this fertilizer.
Fall vegetables require an ample supply of water. Fall droughts often hinder growth and development of vegetables. One to 2 inches of water per week should adequately supply moisture for growth and development of leafy crops. Drip or trickle irrigation systems are ideal for fall gardens.
Mulch is effective in conserving moisture and controlling weeds. Use 3-6 inches of clean wheat straw or other mulches to conserve water and control winter weeds.
Cool season vegetable crops will tolerate light frosts; however, unseasonable freezes will destroy a crop. Gradual cooling trends in the fall are ideal for cool season vegetables. Many gardeners have much better luck in the fall with gradual cooling than with our unpredictable spring weather.
Darrell Blackwelder is an agricultural agent in charge of horticulture with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.