While fall makes most folks think about football and hunting seasons, there is a tried-and-true group of folks that also think about fall gardening. Yes, fall gardening is one of the best times of the year.
The fall vegetable garden has just as much a possibility as a spring one, just different. Establishing a fall garden is different as you may work in some heat upfront. Watering is also approached with a different mindset. Water will be crucial to establishing the summer growing vegetables.
Mulching, a wonderful practice for all gardens, will be much easier with the abundance of leaves on the ground. Just a light layer of mulch will greatly aid in keeping moisture in the soil next to the developing roots and keep weeds at bay.
Pest control for fall gardens should be less. Insect problems that are commonly experienced in the spring will be reduced. Disease issues that arise from cool, moist environments may also be diminished while early fall planted seeds are getting started.
The biggest proponents of fall vegetable gardens will always brag on the harvest. Harvested produce in milder weather are reported to taste better. The time spent harvesting, choosing which squash or beans to pick, is obviously more comfortably done.
Yet with fall gardening, you’ll have a hard deadline from many common, warm-season vegetables. That deadline is our first frost.
Most vegetables traditionally grown in the spring and summer must beat the frost. Now, the average first frost for this area is mid-November. The key word is average. Sometimes it may be near Christmas, and other times it will be prior to Halloween.
To extend frost sensitive crops, you can use a row cover. Purchased locally or online, these thin fabric covers can give a few degrees of protection. And for our first frost, just a few degrees is all we need. Available in a wide variety of widths and lengths, they serve double duty for keeping insects off young, tender plants.
Looking ahead, we have approximately 55 days from the middle of September to mid-November.
With that time frame, it would be wise to ignore traditional spring/summer vegetables. Generally, a frost (31-33 degrees F) will kill beans, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peas, pepper, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes and watermelon.
I’d suggest you consider broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, lettuce, mustard, onion, radish and turnip. They’ll take colder temperatures (26-31 degrees F). Their foliage may burn but should be killed.
For true cold weather tolerance, plant beets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, collards, kale, parsley and spinach.
Remember that with proper selection and proper planting time, we can grow vegetables this fall through the winter and we’ll be ready for next spring.
Now if you are looking to spruce up your landscape or add a colorful touch inside with a new house plant, make plans now to attend the annual Gregg County Master Gardener Plant Sale on Sept. 24 at the Longview Arboretum & Nature Center. This is a great opportunity to replenish plants you may have lost over the heat and drought this summer.
Most plants will be priced at just $5! (cash or check only.) Coffee and pastries will be available for purchase. Enjoy a stroll through the Arboretum after purchase. Come early for best selection. Enter through the Arboretum walk gate on Cotton Street beginning at 9 a.m. Sale will continue until sold out. Proceeds help fund local scholarships and horticultural programs. For more information, call (903) 236-8429 or follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/greggcountymastergardeners.
— Shaniqua Davis is the Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources for Gregg County.