Summer disappointing? There’s still time for a fall garden

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 2, 2013

SALISBURY — With the summer of endless rain, many home gardeners have experienced great difficulties with many of their vegetables. Many have lamented that their squash and tomato crops were a total failure. Green beans took a big hit also with the rainy weather.
Those who have had less than stellar gardening results and are not burned out by summer gardening may want to try a fall vegetable garden. There is still time to plant late summer crops of tomatoes, green beans, eggplant, okra, pepper and summer squash. These vegetables need to be planted as soon as possible to become established before cooler fall weather and shorter days arrive. Declining temperatures in early fall also 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.
Cool season crops can be direct-seeded now into your vegetable garden. Vegetable seeds readily germinate in the warm soil. Vegetable transplants are also available for cool season plantings later in the month.
If you decide to plant a fall garden, be prepared for a deluge of hungry insects. Caterpillars and worms of all shapes and sizes will be actively feeding before pupating in the soil this fall. Natural insecticides such as Dipel or Thuricide (Bacillus thuringenises) are very effective for control of looper and other lepidopterous insects. Insecticidal soaps are useful in the fight against aphids. Sevin is excellent for control of beetles and stink bugs.
Leafy vegetables normally have weak root systems that need an abundant source of fertilizer, especially nitrogen. Cauliflower, turnips, and broccoli are heavy feeders that also require certain trace elements, including boron. It is important to side dress plants three to four weeks after planting to keep plants growing vigorously. It is important to have the garden’s soil tested to determine any deficiencies that may occur.
Even though we’ve had more than enough rainfall, fall vegetables require an ample supply of water. Fall droughts often hinder growth and development of cool season vegetables. One to two inches of water per week should adequately supply moisture for growth and development of leafy fall crops.
If you’re done with your summer garden, plant a cover crop as soon as the soil is workable. Cover crops such as rye grain, wheat, winter peas, vetch, crimson clover or oats help reduce erosion and supply much-needed organic matter. These crops produce an abundance of biomass that improves the workability of the soil. Implementing cover crops aids gardens and planting beds comprised of tight clay soils. Research has also proven that cover crops have the ability to reduce certain weed populations.

Darrell Blackwelder is Rowan County Extension director of N.C. Cooperative Extension; call 704-216-8970.