The Fall Vegetable Garden

Fall is a great time to plant an autumn garden to extend the growing season. Many vegetables, such as broccoli or cauliflower are of a higher quality when grown in the fall, while others, like kale, develop better flavor after a frost.  Spinach, chard, kale, collards, mustard, and rape all grow rapidly and flourish at the end of the season. Loose-leaf lettuces do well, too. It works best to plant greens in blocks or wide rows, because they’re easier to harvest and you have fewer weeds.

To prepare your bed, immediately pull out whatever plants have finished producing.  Spade or till the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches, rake the area lightly and work in a light application of composted manure, GardenTone or 5-10-5 fertilizer.

Broadcast a mixture of seeds like mustard, kale, and rape.  Or, combine seeds of several types of lettuce like curly leaf, red leaf, and oak leaf to allow you to harvest your salad already mixed. If you plant blocks each time a new space opens up, you’ll have staggered plantings that can produce over a long time. Some varieties will tolerate cold better than others. Read seed packets before you purchase them to determine what will be best, but don’t be put off by such notations as chard’s taking 60 days to maturity.  The greens are good when they’re younger, too.

Water in the seeds after sowing and keep the ground evenly moist until the seedlings are up and growing. Seedlings may also need to be sheltered from extreme heat. Protect them by shading them from the sun with Reemay until they are established.

Although insects tend to be less bothersome in late fall, some vegetables in the cabbage family, mustard, kale, and collards may attract cabbageworms. A spraying of Bt will take care of them. As the plants begin to fill out, thin them enough to allow air to circulate and dry off moisture. This helps prevent insect problems, too.

Harvest your fall vegetables as soon as the plants reach edible size.  And, prolong the fall vegetable season several weeks by covering plants with Reemay fabric. Even after the first frosts, you’ll be able to keep harvesting to enjoy the yield of your extended-season garden.