Start preparing fall garden plots now

Whether gardening is a new quarantine hobby or an established, planned activity, it is
time for gardeners to begin replacing their summer bounties with fall crops. Just like
with summer gardens, there are things gardeners should do to prepare their plots.
Bethany O’Rear, with the Alabama Extension Service, provides the following
information to help people get started on their fall garden.

Before planting a fall/winter garden, first remove all weeds and summer vegetable
debris, including old plants and fruits. O’Rear said these old plants can serve as
harboring spots for insects.

“If these plants are left, insects will hang out in them until you get your tasty, new
veggies in the ground,” O’Rear said. “They will then move through the garden to feed on

Another important aspect of preparing a fall/winter garden is choosing crops. Depending
on the variety, there are certain times these need to be planted. Growers should have
an idea of what they want to plant ahead of time. When it comes to choosing vegetables
for the fall rotation, several of them can be planted as early as August. These
vegetables include: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and greens, such
as lettuce, mustard, and kale.

Greens can be sown directly, but most other vegetables should be transplants.
“Many local garden centers, co-op’s, feed and seed’s etc. will have fall transplants
available,” she said. “These same outlets should start getting their fall seed in soon if
they don’t already have some available.”

Choosing what to plant is important, but deciding where to plant these crops in a garden
is critical for the success of the crop. Get into the habit of rotating families of crops to
different sections of the garden plot. Professionals recommend a three-year rotation.
For example, if broccoli was growing in one section of the garden last year, try to plant a
crop from a different vegetable family in that section this year. Vegetables are more
susceptible to diseases and insects if the same family is planted consistently in the
same area. O’Rear recommends making a garden journal each year. Be sure to log the
location and success of each crop, as well as any issues with disease, insects or
weather conditions.

Even in a fall garden, insects can be a serious problem. The first line of defense is to
scout regularly. Managing insects when populations are low is much easier than when
their numbers are extremely high.

“If you catch them early, you may be able to use cultural means, such as physical
removal, as opposed to chemical control,” O’Rear said. “Along those lines, catching them early also means that if insecticides are warranted, you can start with softer, less
toxic products to gain control, as opposed to having to use more potent insecticides
because the insect numbers are so high.”

Ensuring the success of a fall vegetable garden also includes a lot of watering. The
prime growing months for fall vegetables are August, September and October, and
these are also the driest months of the year.

O’Rear said proper mulching will help yield good crops.

“A layer of organic mulch, such as pine straw, pine bark or a layer of newspaper
covered with bark or straw, helps control weeds, conserve moisture and keep the soil
cooler,” she said. “Make sure to keep the weeds out. Weeds will compete with the
vegetables for nutrients as well as water.”

With a little thought and preparation, fall/winter gardens can be just as bountiful as
spring/summer plots.

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