It is once again the time of year when the county extension offices field questions about fall vegetable gardening. As summer turns to autumn, many of the cool-season vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, greens, and cauliflower produce their best quality and flavor as temperatures begin to cool. Growing a good, productive fall vegetable garden requires proper planning and sound cultural practices
Before you prepare the soil for a fall vegetable garden, it is best to have a soil test performed. Soil test kits are available at the Shelby County Extension Office, and other county extension offices throughout the Mid-south. Once your soil is tested, remove any crop residue or weeds from that area. Broadcast lime and/or fertilizer in the prepared garden bed as needed according to your soil test results.
Crops such as cabbage, collards and broccoli can be seeded in the fall. If sowing seeds, the surface of your soil should be kept moist until the seedlings emerge. Continue to provide adequate moisture throughout the growing season for your crop to flourish. Young seedlings require frequent, light watering until the root systems become established. Most of the vegetables grown in the fall require at least one inch of water per week. Vegetable plants will need consistent watering throughout the winter. Water the garden deeply when needed rather than watering in frequent, shallow applications.
Healthy plants are less susceptible to insects and disease. Be sure to check plants frequently for insect and disease damage. Use low impact pesticides to control pests. Insecticidal soap and neem oil are also beneficial in controlling pests in the garden. As always, read and follow the label directions carefully prior to application.
Protecting tender vegetables through the first frost is essential. Floating row covers supported by stakes work well. Bed sheets are an alternative to floating row covers. Individual plants can also be covered with milk jugs, paper cups or a bucket. When covering plants be sure to keep any material from directly touching the plants.
Give fall vegetable gardening a try. If you have any questions, contact Christopher Cooper, Ph.D, UT-TSU Extension Shelby County Agent at 901-752-1207. Enjoy fall in the garden.
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