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Now is the time to start a fall vegetable garden

The fall months will be upon us soon, and there are several vegetables that can be grown in the colder weather. Greens, such as mustard, cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards and turnips are cool season plants, and they do not grow well during the hot weather. If you have grown these vegetables in the past, you may have noticed that as the weather gets warmer in the spring, the plants begin to start flowering and going to seed in a process known as bolting. These vegetables prefer colder weather.

Leafy greens grow best in a sunny area where the soil is loose, rich and well-drained. They can be grown from seed, or better, set out as vegetable transplants. Although leafy crops will tolerate some shade they grow better with at least 6 hours of sunshine daily. They prefer soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5, rich in organic matter, well drained and tilled thoroughly. The leafy, green vegetables need to be growing continually for best quality, and nitrogen is especially important for good, dark green color and tenderness. For most soils, apply 3/4 to 1 pound of a general purpose fertilizer such as 10-10-10 per 25 square feet before planting, and then apply with 1 oz of 10-10-10 per 25 foot of row three to five times after seeding or transplanting. Make sure they receive adequate water. The plants can be harvested when they are large enough for your use, or harvest the whole plant when leaves are full size.

Several caterpillar pests, such as the cabbage looper, can cause problems for the vegetables. There are several insecticides that can be used, but the ones I have found the most effective contain bacteria that specifically target the caterpillar pests. Dipel is one such brand of the pesticide. Aphids can also be a problem. Use insecticidal soaps or in some cases just wash them off with a hose.

Several root crops also can be grown in the cold weather months. Like the leafy green plants, they need full sun and have similar water and fertilization requirements. They need well prepared soil with adequate drainage. Garlic is extremely frost hardy and, if planted in October, may have tops showing above the soil and be well rooted by November. They will be ready for harvesting the following spring. Radishes need to be planted at least one inch a part and one and one-half inches deep. Their leafy tops can also be eaten. Bulb type onions and green bunching onions grow well in the winter months and can be ready to be harvested in spring, like the garlic. There are other root crops that can be grown in the fall, such as carrots, horseradish and beets.

Yes, even in the cold weather you can have vegetables ready for harvest from your garden. Proper planting with adequate watering and fertilization will yield a bountiful harvest you and your whole family can enjoy. For more information on fall gardening, McDaniel Farm Park in Duluth is offering a class on fall vegetable gardening from noon to 1 p.m. Sept. 4 at The cost is $5. To register or to get more information, call the park at 770-814-4920 or visit, mcdanielfarm@gwinnettcounty.com.

Timothy Daly is an agricultural and natural resource agent with the Gwinnett County Extension Service. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.