GARDENING

Vegetables for the fall garden


Published: Saturday, September 1, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 1:22 p.m.

With the arrival of September and cooler weather, the days are becoming suitable for installing a fall vegetable garden.

There are many reasons to garden, perhaps none greater than the enhanced taste fresh produce gives. Vegetables planted now will begin to yield during the fall and many will grace the table on Thanksgiving Day.

Seeds for most vegetables are available in hardware and garden stores. Some of the more popular vegetables for fall include broccoli, cabbage, carrots, collards, kale, lettuce, onions, English peas and pole beans. A more complete listing of cool-season vegetables may be found in the University of Florida's "Vegetable Gardening in Florida," available at ifasbooks.com.

Vegetable gardening requires a commitment if it is to be successful. Gardeners must make time to check the garden daily for soil moisture, potential problems from weeds, insects and diseases and harvest produce at its peak.

Good soil is a basic requirement for successful gardening. Good soils can overcome a lot of mistakes and may be improved over the years by adding materials that will increase microbes and earthworm activity. Garden vegetables perform best at a pH of 6.0-6.5, and a soil test at the outset of the garden project is an important step in determining whether special amendments are required to maximize production.

The University of Florida offers a very thorough soil test for gardeners for $7, and test kits may be obtained at the local extension office.

Preparation of the seed bed is an important next step in gardening. For those who solarized soils following the spring vegetable garden, it will probably only be necessary to remove the plastic. If solarization was not employed, begin by removing any weeds from the site, then till the soil to result in a fine seedbed. Some gardeners elect to add organic matter or compost to enhance soil quality. In this case, tilling the matter into the soil would be recommended.

Place seeds in straight, shallow rows — about a quarter-inch deep for small seeds and one-half-inch deep for larger seeds. Consult the seed package for recommendations on spacing between rows and spacing between individual seeds. Monitor rainfall and soil moisture carefully and supplement as needed. Ideally, one-quarter inch of water is needed daily through seed germination. As we move further into fall and temperatures drop, less water will be required and it will become necessary to water only every other day. Some vegetables perform best on a trellis system and a panel of hogwire or a short section of no-climb field fencing will enhance production of vegetables such as English peas and pole beans.

Winter annual weeds will begin to germinate as temperatures fall. Monitor your garden and remove weeds, as these compete with vegetables for water and nutrients.

Scout regularly for insect activity and control them early to minimize damage. Remember to check the underside of leaves because many of these harbor whiteflies, aphids and other leaf-feeding insects. In September, use soaps to control most insect pests. As temperatures fall to daytime highs under 85 degrees, oils may be used in addition to soap products. Diseases in the fall garden are minimized with the advent of cooler temperatures, particularly night temperatures.

Diseases occur on roots and stems, leaves and fruit and vary depending on the vegetable class, soil condition, moisture, humidity and other factors. Fungicides are available for a broad spectrum of disease problems, but the important factors in disease management are prevention (selecting well-drained soil and not over-watering), regular scouting for early control, sanitation — removal of diseased plants — and proper identification of the disease.

Contact your Extension office for help in identifying specific disease problems.

David Holmes is Marion County extension director. Contact him at david.holmes@marioncountyfl.org.

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