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Time to plant a fall vegetable garden

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By Dennis Morgeson

 

We had a terribly hot and dry June, followed by a normal July with more moisture and many of our gardens turned into lush weed-infested messes But with most of you, I am sure, the summer garden was a success. In June, I had made the decision to not worry about doing a fall garden mainly because I thought the drought would just get worse, but it didn’t, so now I might plant a few things to munch on into October and early November.


August is the time to start planting and planning for your fall garden. Many people don’t even think about vegetable gardening in the fall, but it is actually the best time to grow many of our cool-season vegetables. Taste and quality of most cool-season vegetables is better in the fall because the weather is getting cooler when harvest and ripening time nears instead of hotter like it does in the spring. Vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflowers and turnips develop bitter compounds in hot weather. However in cooler weather, such as in late September and October, these plants store sugars and starches, which greatly improve their taste.


Now is the time to plant broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower transplants into the garden.  Keep in mind, these are cool-season crops that will need extra water in hot, dry weather to get established.


You can also seed crops such as beets, kale, collards, Bibb lettuce and radishes in August. Radishes can even be planted all the way to mid-September. Many people in our area don’t plant spinach because it tends to bolt (go to seed) and doesn’t have a mild flavor. This is because they plant it too late in the spring and hot, dry weather causes the flavor to deteriorate, as well as stresses the plant, which tells it to reproduce or bolt.  Fall-planted spinach in September won’t go to seed because of the cool weather and short-day length. Individual leaves can be harvested to cook or add to a salad. These smaller spinach plants will generally seed over winter and give you early, great-tasting spinach next spring.


After your fall crop is up and actively growing, side dress it with nitrogen fertilizer such as urea. About three tablespoons of urea per 10 feet of row, four to six inches away from the plants is adequate. If it doesn’t rain, water the plants soon to activate the fertilizer.  If you have any questions about fall gardening, call the Washington County Extension Office at 859-336-7741. If you would like to become a Kentucky Master Gardener or would like some information on it, give me a call as well!