by Roger Meissen, from interviews with Dr. David Trinklein, University of Missouri Extension
Don’t forget about fall gardening! Dr. Trinklein, Assistant Professor of Horticulture with MU Extension, reminds us that August and September offer a reprieve from the scorching heat of summer and an opportunity to put vegetables on the dinner table well into fall.
Fall planting, sometime called succession planting, puts summer garden plots back into production. Successive sowings of appropriate crops can help you eat from the garden into fall and sometimes into the winter. Falling temperatures means a fall crop often ends up higher in quality than produce grown in the spring and summer.
Succession planting begins with selecting the right crop. Since there is limited time until the first fall frost, choose crops that mature quickly or crops that hold up against freezing temperatures without severe damage.
Seed envelopes often have important information on the back telling you “days to maturity”. You can use that information to help you decide which vegetables you can plant and still get a crop before a frost or freeze.
Bush beans, cucumbers, and summer squash often will bear fruit if planted before late August. These fast-growing plants will have a chance to produce before cold weather. With a little luck and a fall that is warm and long, these vegetables will reward the gardener with a good crop.
Some vegetables can withstand a light frost. Arugula, beets, Chinese cabbage, collards, lettuce (leaf and Bibb types), radishes, spinach, and Swiss chard are some cool-season crops that thrive in the fall.
Leftover seed potatoes can also be planted. They will produce fresh, small potatoes to eat in the fall. Gardeners should not plant recently harvested potatoes. Fall potatoes often do not store well.
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and turnips are also good potential fall crops. These hardy vegetables will withstand low temperatures and provide a bountiful harvest well into the fall or early winter. Plant transplants of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. Kale and turnips can be planted by seed.
Sugar Snap or snow peas are additional possibilities for fall gardening because their pods can be eaten at any stage if an early frost cuts short the growing season. Again, use the days to maturity information to help you plan and plant.
Sanitation is the first step in disease and insect management in the garden. Removing the previous crop and cleaning up plant debris and weeds help lessen problems in the fall garden.
Next, lightly till or hand cultivate soil. Add a general-purpose fertilizer such as a 5-10-5 or 12-12-12 according to label recommendations. (These numbers represent the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, in that order, contained in the fertilizer.)
Seeds sown in the fall should be planted slightly deeper than they would normally be planted in the spring. Water often to keep the seed bed moist. This helps with germination.
For crops grown from transplants such as cabbage, transplanting in afternoon or early evening reduces transplant shock.
Vegetables need 1-2 inches of water per week. If weather is dry, some watering will be required. Avoid watering plant leaves to reduce the chance of foliage diseases. Since rust and fungal diseases thrive on heat, they are less of a problem in the fall. Continue to monitor plants for disease and insect damage.
In October, row cover can add a few degrees of protection against frost. Floating row cover is a translucent, spun polyester material that traps the soil’s heat underneath it when it is spread over plants.
Since sunlight can pass through, it can be left in place for several days during a cold snap. This product is relatively inexpensive, can be found at many local gardening stores, and can be reused for several years.
With the right preparation, love and attention, a fall garden can feed the body and soul.
“Gardening is good for the ‘inner self’,” Dr. Trinklein said. “Working in the garden eases tension, restores our spirit and tends to make us feel good about ourselves.”
Contact Cathy Bylinowski, Horticulture Instructor, MU Extension, firstname.lastname@example.org, 816-482-5850, if you have more fall gardening questions.
August gardening information- https://ipm.missouri.edu/MEG/2020/7/August_Gardening_Tips/