Fall Veggie Gardening In The South
In the South, many vegetables are well adapted to planting for fall harvest. Planting a fall garden will extend the gardening season so you can continue to harvest fresh produce into winter.
Many cool-season vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, produce their best flavor and quality when they mature during cool weather. In the South, the spring temperatures often heat up quickly. Vegetables, such as lettuce and spinach, tend to bolt or develop bitter flavor when they mature during hot summer weather so are best grown during the fall season. A list of fall vegetables can be found on the next page of this article.
When To Begin Panting A Fall Garden?
Growing a productive fall vegetable garden requires thoughtful planning and good cultural practices. September is a good time to start planting turnips, lettuce, cabbage, collards and other cool-season vegetables for the fall garden in the South.
Preparing the Site
If you intend to plant your fall garden where your spring garden grew, before preparing the soil, you must decide what to do with the remains of the spring/summer garden. In most cases, the warm-season crops have already matured and are beginning to look ragged. Remove the previous crop residue and, if you have one, add this organic matter to your compost pile. Then remove any weed weed growth. Do not add the weed growth to your compost pile as it may contain seeds! When you have the garden cleared of growth, add a light layer of organic matter/ compost, such as your own home-made compost, composted manures or mushroom compost. If the spring/summer crops were heavily fertilized, you may not need to make an initial pre-planting fertilization. Otherwise, 1 to 2 pounds of a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 may be applied per 100 square feet of bed space. Alternatively, if you're into organic gardening, you can apply an organic plant food. Then, thoroughly incorporate the organic matter and fertilizer into the garden soil by tilling or spading to a depth of at least 6 to 8 inches.
Planting the Fall Garden
If you have a local nursery and garden center in your area, check to see if they provide fall vegetable plants. Most nursery and garden centers in the south with start carrying fall vegetable plants in late August or early September. If you can't find a local source for plants you might have to grow your fall garden from seed.
Direct seeding (planting seeds rather than using transplants) for crops such as broccoli, cabbage, and collards is often used in the fall. However, the success of this planting method depends on having adequate moisture available to keep the young seedlings actively growing after germination. If you do not have an irrigation source available, you would be wise to buy vegetable transplants from a local nursery and garden center.
If you choose to go with seeds, they should be planted deeper in the fall because the moisture level is lower in the soil and the surface temperature is higher. In many cases, the planting depth may be 1 1/2 to 2 times as deep as for spring planting of the same crop.
In September, temperatures can still be on the hot side and the weather can be dry. If so, the garden soil may form a hard crust over the seeds which can interfere with seed germination, particularly in heavy clay soil. Also keep in mind that seeds of lettuce and spinach will not germinate if the soil temperature exceeds 85 degrees F. On hot days, you may need to cover the seeded area with burlap cloth, newspapers, or boards to keep the soil cool and moist. Shading the soil or using a light mulch over the seed row will help keep the temperatures more favorable for germination. The shading material must be removed as soon as the seeds begin to germinate. Another useful technique is to open a furrow, seed, and cover the seeds with potting soil or vermuclite. Depending on the temperatures, young transplants may also benefit from light shading for the first few days after transplanting.