As hot as July has been, it’s hard to believe that it’s time to start getting your garden ready for fall.
Timing is a factor here because if your plants are not well-established before the weather cools, then your crops may not grow until spring. August is a good time to hit the dirt and get things ready for your fall garden.
Layout plays a large role in the success you may achieve. For example, grouping tall plants together on the north or west side of the garden helps prevent the shading shorter plants. Seeds and transplants should also be set at the recommended spacing so they don’t crowd each other as they grow and set fruit. Lastly, don’t forget to set aside space to walk between the rows so you can work in your garden.
To get the most out of your garden, plan to use your space continuously by planting another in-season crop soon after the last harvest. This is best accomplished with fast-growing crops. I have done it with beets, lettuce, leeks and green onions.
When deciding what to plant, it is important to select varieties recommended for your growing region. Generally, planting seeds saved from fruits and vegetables bought at the grocery is not recommended because those commodities are often grown far away, and are not suited for Southeast Georgia. Thus, it is best to start with fresh, clean seeds from a reliable source each year. Many varieties for this region are available, and new varieties are made available yearly. I enjoy testing out a few new varieties on a small scale to determine if they are something that I would like to grow in a higher quantity the next year.
When buying transplants, keep in mind that bigger does not always mean better, rather buy green, stocky plants that appear disease and insect free. Plants should have lots of leaves and a well-developed root system. The roots should be white and form a root ball that holds the soil together; you should be able to tell if a plant has good roots if you gently slide the plant from its container.
Making a garden map and keeping a garden journal are great ways to record what happens throughout the season. Keeping track of soil reports, plant varieties, when and where a pest or disease occurs, fertilizer and spray applications, and weather can serve as a reference to help make next year’s garden more successful. A garden map can also help you know where to rotate your crops from year to year.
Mulch is another tool you can use in your quest to steward a productive fall garden. Mulch helps retain moisture, prevent soil loss and reduce the instance of soil surface crusting. Mulch also helps suppress weeds and provide habitat for beneficial organisms, such as earthworms.
To be worthwhile, garden mulch should be readily available, inexpensive and easy to use. You can usually find mulch in your own yard but different types are also available at garden centers. A rule of thumb is to apply 3 to 4 inches of mulch, bearing in mind that too little mulch will give limited weed control and too much will prevent air circulation.
It is important to give your plants the best start possible, so don’t forget to submit a soil sample to your Extension office. A soil sample is only $14, and it is a great way to learn if you need to adjust your soil pH or add any nutrients to your garden before planting.
If the pH is low (acidic), then apply the recommended amount of lime before planting by mixing it into the soil during preparation. A pH of 5.7 to 6.5 is the general range for most vegetables. Based on fertilizer requirements, vegetables are classified as “light,” “medium,” or “heavy” feeders. Most crops grown in the fall, such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, collard greens, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale are heavy feeders. Be sure to list the crops you intend to grow on your soil sample form so the correct fertility recommendations can be made.
If you have time, swing by the office at 100 Main St., Suite 7130, Hinesville, if you would like a free soil sample bag with instructions on how to take your sample. Once you have collected your sample and filled out the information, bring the bag back to our office. You will be contacted once the results arrive.
That’s all for now. Thanks and happy gardening!