The Garden Patch: Fall gardening begins in the heat of summer

Whew! It’s summer! Can I start vegetables in this heat? You bet! And it’s called FALL GARDENING! Let’s get to work …

Fall gardeners will find that establishing a garden during the summer when soil temperatures are extremely high is difficult. One way to avoid seeding in extremely adverse conditions is to establish plants in containers or pots for transplanting to the garden later in the season as the weather begins to cool. Crops such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage and collards can be grown in a cooler protected area or under lights in a basement growing area for two to four weeks prior to setting in the garden.

It is important to acclimatize the crops for several days before transplanting directly in the garden. Place the flats in direct sun and provide adequate water for two to four days to allow the plants to become accustomed to the stronger winds, hot sun and the harsh environment of the summer garden.

Crops that are seeded directly should be planted slightly deeper than they would be for a spring garden. This has two benefits – it provides a slight cooling effect as well as more moisture available at the deeper soil depth. It is probably wise to plant more seed than necessary and to do some thinning later to ensure an adequate stand. With frequent watering and heavy, tight soils, a crust may form in planting fall gardens. This can be overcome by a light sprinkling of vermiculite or compost directly over the row.

Fall gardening requires NO special cultural techniques. Weeds may develop requiring cultivation. The use of mulches is helpful in conserving moisture and reducing weed and disease problems. Insect and disease pests may require specific control measures, but these are situations that can develop in any garden.

Baby, it’s c-o-l-d outside!

The first frost in the fall will damage some frost-sensitive crops. Others may be slightly damaged but will continue to grow for several weeks until a severe freeze kills them. Other crops are hardy and will stand fairly low temperatures. These can be used into the winter months as needed.

Vegetables can be harvested as they mature. From mid to late October in most areas of Kansas, the weather forecast will indicate when a frost that will freeze tender vegetation is on the way. Many vegetables will have been producing vigorously for two to four weeks prior to this date; however it may be possible to continue harvest for an even longer period of time.

Often, a few nights of low temperatures will be followed by warmer weather for several weeks. If you can protect tender vegetation during those few cold nights, you can continue harvesting vegetables.

Some gardeners attempt to gain more days of growing time by covering plants with baskets, blankets or plastic at the first frost warning.

Concentrate on saving only the tender vegetables which will be easily damaged by a slight frost. Other vegetables that may be growing in the garden and need protection are peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. Temporary coverings of polyethylene (plastic), blankets or tarpaulins may be stretched over the rows to provide frost protection. A small light bulb burning underneath such coverings can provide protection from freezes to around 25 degrees F. Coverings should by anchored so they will not damage garden crops if a sudden wind develops (in Kansas?). As little foliage as possible should come in contact with the surface of the covering because that foliage will freeze rapidly. After the danger of frost has passed, remove the coverings; be prepared to

put them on again if a sudden frost is forecast later.

Semi-hardy vegetables should be harvested if temperatures in the mid- to upper 20s are forecast and hardy vegetables harvested if temperatures in the low 20s are imminent. Root crops such as beets, carrots, potatoes and turnips may be mulched and used as needed until the soil begins to freeze, usually in late November and December.

What in the world should I grow that we’ll use?

Well, vegetables require sunny locations (for growing, not storing), and will vary in productivity depending on the type of crop. Check your seed catalogs for new varieties for your regular garden or specially developed for container gardens. There are also several types of “ornamental” vegetables adapted for growing in containers. Flowering cabbage and flowering kale are attractive relatives of the standard varieties. Lettuce is available in a variety of colors and leaf textures. Red chard is another popular container plant because of its bright red stalks.

Many gardeners like to grow herbs near the kitchen where they are handy to use in cooking. Basil, chives, marjoram and thyme are easy to grow in containers. Many gardeners keep mint in containers as it is an aggressive plant that spreads. Some herbs are perennial and can be moved indoors for winter use or held in the container until next year. Many gardeners dig a hole in the garden to store pots of perennial herbs until the next season (my parents did).

How about storage?

Vegetables from the home garden have the benefit of being harvested just prior to use. This usually means that the product not only is fresher and more flavorful but also more nutritious. Vegetables are living tissue and these tissues continue to live after harvest. Providing conditions to slow deterioration in quality after harvest is important.

NOTHING improves in storage and defective produce should be discarded or used immediately so that only the best quality, soundest products are put into storage. Produce must be handled carefully to avoid surface damage, skinning or bruising. All these types of injury provide entry points for bacteria or fungi that may rot the produce and reduce storage intervals.

There you have it, folks! Grow it and store it and eat it up! That’s all for this week, but if you’ll stay tuned we’ll feed you more of it in the very near future! Till next time!


stevehallerSteve Haller, of Osage City, a K-State Research and Extension Master Gardener, writes The Garden Patch, featuring gardening ideas and tips for gardeners in northeast Kansas. In his words: “I am not a horticulturist. By education I am an economist. By experience, I am a marketing guru from a local to an international scale. Gardening was taught to me by my grandfather and my Mom, and I’ve been doing it since World War II was going on.”

Steve can be contacted at [email protected], or leave questions or comments below.


One Response to The Garden Patch: Fall gardening begins in the heat of summer

  1. amygm says:

    Great tips! I'd better get busy on my fall garden!

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