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Ideas for your Fall Vegetable Garden

With your summer vegetable garden still going strong, it’s now time to begin your fall plantings, to continue the harvest into the cooler months. Perhaps you have used all available space for your initial spring/summer planting, so what can you do? Make intense use of your space.

Succession Planting
Bush beans, lettuce, peas, radishes, and cucumbers, for example, may be harvested fairly early in the summer season, yielding space for something else to be started (including more bush beans, cucumbers or other heat-tolerant vegetables). This is called “succession planting;” that is, never letting garden space go fallow (unused) while another crop could be growing and making food for you. Continue this into fall, with the introduction of cool-season vegetables that tolerate colder temperatures and shorter days.

Consider micro-managing the garden space. Even if you harvest cabbage or broccoli plants one at a time, you have enough room to add a new transplant. Be sure to add soil amendments and fertilizer to the soil before putting in another crop. Why should you bother? Price increases at the grocery store should be enough of a reason, but if they aren’t, you have complete control over the types of vegetables the family likes and the picking time in your garden. No more tough green beans or bitter broccoli as your only choices. You can pick your produce at its optimum size before it gets tough or its seeds are too large.

What to Plant
What are the choices that I have for fall vegetables? The Maryland Home and Garden Information Center lists beets, bush and lima beans, black-eyed peas, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, collards, corn, cucumbers, peas, garlic, kale, lettuces, mustard, spinach, Swiss chard, turnips, and tomatoes as some of the plants to grow again. Note that planting dates are important; tomatoes or cucumbers for fall harvest need to be planted by mid-summer, while lettuce, cabbage, and spinach will yield well if planted in September.

Garlic cloves should be planted from mid-October to mid-November for the biggest yields. Behnke Nurseries’ website offers a convenient way to buy your vegetable seed from your home.When it’s time to plant the next crop, clean out all the plants and rake up any remaining debris.

How to Plant
Turn in organic material like Leaf-Gro, manure, composted yard waste or peat humus. Always feed the soil first with regular incorporation of organic matter. Organic matter improves soil structure, slowly releases nutrients, and increases beneficial microbial activity.

Next, work in either organic or inorganic fertilizer into the row or plant locations. Mix into the top 4-6 inches of soil. Plant seed or transplants, and water the area well. Plan your garden size to match your time. Wouldn’t a small group of plants well-cared for and actively yielding be better than a larger plot where you can hardly see the vegetables for the sea of weeds? A garden needs time for weeding, watering, perhaps fertilizing again (called side dressing), picking crops and finally, removing the spent plants to make room for the next crop of vegetables.

No Yard?
What if you live in an apartment? If you have a balcony which gets at least 6-7 hours of full sun, try growing your vegetables in large pots. In summer, dwarf varieties of cucumber, squash, tomatoes, peppers and okra can be grown in pots, while in the fall, you can try greens like lettuce and spinach, harvesting repeatedly over a period of weeks.

Maybe you have been growing a balcony garden and would like to move up to a small plot. Some community centers, county extension offices, neighborhood schools, and places of worship have land for gardening. In the city, neighbors take advantage of cleared lots to grow just about everything! You can too.

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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