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4 Steps to a Successful Fall Vegetable Garden



Autumn's mild temperatures create perfect growing conditions for cool-season crops such as lettuce and spinach -- so enjoy late-season treats by planting a fall vegetable garden. Summer might be high season in the vegetable garden, but autumn also brings wonderful rewards. Fast-growing salad crops will revive the most bedraggled fall garden, and good care can keep sweet root crops and cabbage cousins growing for several weeks beyond the first frost. The tips below will help you extend your vegetable season long beyond the heat of summer.

The secret to having a great fall vegetable garden is getting the timing right. And that means thinking a little differently because you have to plan backward.

Start with your area's average first fall frost date. Then look at the number of days to harvest for each vegetable you wish to plant. You should be able to find that number on the seed packet, in the catalog description.  Use that number to count back from the first frost date. Then add two weeks; many plants grow more slowly as days shorten in fall.

A late freeze is one of the most aggravating things a gardener can experience. Many times is little you can do to prevent damage like this. But there are some steps you can take. Newly planted vegetables or frost tender perennials that are just emerging like this hibiscus can be covered with a pot. It's simple and very effective. Larger plants can be covered with a cloth sheet, avoid plastic sheet, you know, which actually causes more damage, not less. After late freeze, it's important to wait until summer to prune off the sheets. It's difficult to know right away how much damage occurred. Give the plant time to regrow then clip out the twigs.

 

Getting the Garden Ready



Make room for your fresh crop of fall plants by ripping out any varieties that are no longer performing well (such as tomatoes that have succumbed to disease or peas that have burned out from the heat) or you have already harvested (potatoes, onions, or sweet corn, for example). Pull any weeds, as well, so they don't steal moisture and nutrients from your young plants.

If your vegetable garden has a lot of clay in the soil, it's helpful to work in some organic matter, such as compost, to get your new plants off to a great start.

 Succession Planting

 
Plant crops in prompt succession by using wide-row planting in beds to produce more food.
Soil that produces a steady flow of produce over several months needs help, because a succession of crops inevitably depletes the soil of nutrients. They must be replaced to maintain production over the entire season -- plus an extended season. Mix a granular, slow-acting fertilizer into the soil when you first prepare the bed. This food provides a large portion of the nutrients needed for plant growth over several weeks.

What You Need: Sharp scissors'  trowel, new transplants, slow-acting fertilizer, water


Instructions:  Dig up the plants as soon as their main production is over and replace them with seedlings for a different crop. As the weather warms, cool-season crops, such as peas, are completing their production. Have young squash or cucumber plants ready to take their place on the trellis. As soon as the broccoli is finished, have tomato plants ready to take its place in the bed. A planting area that's never idle produces a surprising amount of food.

Instructions:



1. After seedlings have developed two or three sets of leaves, they'll be crowded and need thinning. Remove extra plants to achieve the correct spacing and allow the remaining plants room to grow.



2. Thin a crop of young plants by snipping off the stems at the soil surface. For larger plants, this is preferable to pulling them, when you might damage the roots of neighboring plants.


3.  Immediately replace exhausted early-season crops with seedlings for the next crop. This follow-up procedure, called succession planting, achieves maximum production from the garden space.
 

4.  Between succession plantings, cultivate the soil to aerate and level it. Clean up old plant debris before replanting. Add granular fertilizer if previous crops, such as tomatoes, were heavy feeders



 
 
 Cool-season vegetables can handle the chill of early spring and late fall. They fade rapidly when the warmth arrives in early summer and eventually succumb to freezing in winter. They're ideal for extended-season growing. Vegetables that don't mind being chilly, such as peas, broccoli, and spinach, make it possible for you to have two crops a year -- one in spring, another in fall. Often the second crop, at the onset of winter, is the one that you're happy to put into the freezer.

Cool weather crops:     Asparagus seeds,   Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collards, Garlic, Kale, Leeks, Lettuce, Onions, Peas,   Spinach, Swiss chard

tags: fall, garden, vegetables, organic, Asparagus seeds,   Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collards, Garlic, Kale, Leeks, Lettuce, Onions, Peas,   Spinach, Swiss chard, cottage

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