The time is ripe to start a fall vegetable garden

Garden Calendar

If the hot weather and high humidity have not deterred your gardening enthusiasm, try planting a fall vegetable garden.

For the next several weeks, crops can be grown that we traditionally associate with a spring salad garden. Vegetables like lettuce, radishes, spinach, snap beans, summer squash, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes and beets all can be planted now for a bountiful fall harvest.

Fall has long been my preferred season for vegetable gardening. Seeds will germinate and grow more quickly than in spring. In fact, you can usually have crops up and growing in just a few days.

Insects, diseases and weeds are much less severe than early in the season. Cooler air temperatures and warm soil temperatures mean the crops mature more quickly and have better flavor.

There are, however, a few "downers" to fall gardening. Watering can be a bit more cumbersome. In a dry year, such as this, you will have to water regularly and frequently until the crops are well established.

To help combat this, it is best if you plant the seeds about twice as deep as you would for a spring garden. Not only is there more soil moisture down there, but the soil is also a bit cooler so the seeds do not dry out as quickly.

As for soil preparation, don't get too excited about working the ground extensively or adding large amounts of organic material. Simply scratch the soil surface enough to create a good soil bed. Save your compost and other goodies for late fall after everything has been harvested.

If weeds or other plant debris is left over from the previous crop, mow it off with a lawn mower and till it under lightly. Allow three to five days for the matter to dry and then plant away.

Fall vegetable gardens can be a last ditch effort to save an otherwise unproductive gardening season, or they can be a regularly scheduled event in your gardening program. To save headaches and heartaches, I simply plan to plant a fall vegetable garden and not a spring one.

To help ensure your success this fall, plant the seeds twice as deep, water regularly, and don't work the soil too excessively. Then, sit back, relax and enjoy all the fruits our your labor.

-- Bruce A. Chladny is a county extension horticulture agent with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County.

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