Planting a Fall Vegetable Garden

You can keep your vegetable garden productive right through the fall by choosing bolt and frost-resistant late summer vegetables.


| August/September 1995



vegetable garden

Just because fall is coming doesn't mean it's time to put away your gardening gloves.

PHOTO: FOTOLIA/ALEXANDER RATHS

As the seasons change, so do the requirements for keeping the home garden growing properly. Here in Middle America, fall is a season to be revered. There is so much to do and so much can be accomplished that there is no need to consider this season of spectacular color as merely a short interim before winter. I can assure you that gardening in the fall can be just as productive as gardening in spring and summer. . .and with substantially reduced mosquito problems!

I consider myself a lucky individual to have been properly trained by my father and uncle in how to garden:, and harvest in the fall. All of us do our planting and harvesting near the banks of the Big Sandy River here in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, and that terrain poses special challenges. I do realize that most folks will be gardening in areas that are not as sheltered and likely' riot as sloping, but fall gardening is easily adaptable to nearly all situations. Though Dad has been gone for 16 years now, I can still see him walking over the riverbank with his trusty hoe over his shoulder, ready to do battle with the various assortment of weeds that persistently made a nuisance of themselves. I can honestly say Dad never tired of the constant war he engaged in. He believed fervently in a "clean" garden-using whatever method it took. Though hoeing is perhaps not the easiest way to keep weeds at bay, it is one of the best and most commonly employed. If you have the resources available to mulch enough to control weeds, by all means, do it! If not, be sure to keep a sharp hoe at hand.

My Uncle Red is a master gardener and has his garden near mine over the bank. Though in his mid-80s, Uncle Red's passion for gardening has never waned with the years. I wish all my readers could visit his garden and this amazing man with his trusty shovel at hand. Yes, I did say shovel! Though he does use a hoe, it is absolutely amazing how adeptly he cleans his garden with his shovel. It's not your ordinary model either. It has a serrated edge. You heard me right-serrated, and he put that edge there himself, hand-filing every small notch until it was a formidable weapon. Weeds and soil are no match for this unique tool.

Plan Your Cool-Weather Vegetable Garden in the Summer

Where do you start? Good question. You start in the summer, making your plans. Gardening without a master plan is an invitation to disaster, so we'll begin in August. If you plan on growing cole crops such as cabbage, broccoli, or cauliflower, and I suggest you do, those plants need to be started by mid-to-late summer at the latest. It's likely you'll have to start your own, because few garden centers offer plants of those items other than in the spring; the only exception being the South. You can start your seeds in flats if you like, but I usually start them right in the ground, keeping them moist before, during, and after they sprout.

I also like to try a few late tomatoes in the same manner. It might be a good idea to start the tomato seeds a week or so before the vegetables mentioned above. Though most will mature about the same time as the majority of cole crops, tomatoes do not tolerate frost well and flat out cannot handle a freeze. On the other hand, most cole crops actually thrive under cool weather conditions.

Such seed beds should be prepared by adding copious amounts of soil builders such as compost, manure, and even peat moss, which help the soil to retain moisture, even during the August heat. After the plants are large enough to transplant to their permanent locations, I like to choose sites that will receive good drainage and receive proper sunlight. While cole crops can handle some shade, tomatoes do better in full sunlight. I know some folks have no choice and have to make do with a shady area, and that's okay if that's all you have. Tomatoes will produce in the shade but not as abundantly.





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