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Fall garden preparation has begun
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The fall is a good time to grow cabbage. - photo by File illustration
The spring gardening season is mostly wrapped up at this point and folks are already getting the fall gardens prepared. This is a good point in the year to reflect back on what went right and what went wrong with our early season vegetable crops this year and what we can do to make our fall gardens as productive as possible. We’ll start with the weather: Last week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its Annual State of the Climate Report for 2017. As expected, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide all increased in atmospheric concentrations. Here on the ground in Effingham County it is difficult to notice any over- arching trends in our weather. At the very least, we can say that, compared to the last five years, 2018 has been a little drier. This is true in spite of the fact that it has been a very wet last two or three months, record setting in some areas. Our garden planting season was very dry and then it got wet, rained frequently and has stayed wet. So far, the 2018 spring gardening season has taught us that water truly is the master variable in agriculture. The best gardens that I was able to visit this year were irrigated and mulched, either with plastic, pine straw or other. This helps to regulate water loss during dry spells and can reduce disease when it does rain. What’s more, mulching suppresses weeds, reducing the need for herbicide applications. For those diseases that do crop up in during wet spells, it’s good to have a copper type fungicide in place as a preventative. Lesson learned. Looking forward to this fall, we should be preferably tilling in our spring gardens and preparing our beds for weed control, fertilizer and planting. Garden soils will hold on to more plant available nutrients if we are able to continually add organic matter throughout the year. Tilling in the old garden (and weeds) is a good start, adding compost at the same time is even better. One good application of a pre-emergent herbicide prior to laying down your mulch will alleviate quite a bit of hand weeding throughout the season and will especially help young plants to grow faster without weed competition. A light rate of fertilizer containing nitrogen and phosphorous at or right before planting will also help give little plants a boost. This can be followed up in a month or so with another application of nitrogen and potassium that will feed the plants until all that organic matter we added becomes available. Now, the big question is — what should we plant? Fall gardens have a lot in common with spring gardens such as bell peppers, squash, beans and potatoes but are also well suited for leafy greens such as spinach, turnips, cabbage, beets, broccoli and cauliflower. Snap beans and Irish potatoes can be sprouted now and planted this month. Cucumbers and squash can also go in the ground now. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, onions, spinach should be started now and ready for transplant at the end of the August. Now is a great time to get busy in the garden! Contact the UGA County Extension office with any questions or for specific recommendations at (912) 754-8040.