Even though summer recently started, plan for a fall garden to continue harvesting produce from your Kentucky Victory Garden. Weather provides a challenge during the growing season.
If planting was delayed, some plants may still produce longer into the season. However, by using successive planting of warm-season crops and late plantings of cool-season crops, harvest will continue through October.
At this point in the year, there is still time to plant more warm-season vegetables. The limiting factor for growing these crops is temperature because frost injures them. Some warm-season vegetables such as okra, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes continue producing into September if the plants are healthy, so these may not need to be planted again. However, if these plants are producing poorly, you may want to plant more.
Other crops, such as pumpkins, sweet potatoes, watermelons, and winter squash, may require over 100 days to mature. Check the number of days to harvest before planting more of these vegetables. Some can be planted as seeds or transplants up to July 15 and still produce before the first killing frost around Oct. 20.
Zucchini, yellow summer squash, cucumbers, and green beans are warm-season vegetables that can be planted now for harvest starting in late August to early September. You may want to try early-maturing varieties in order to enjoy more produce before the first killing frost.
Planting cool-season crops again is another way to extend the season. Cool-season vegetables tolerate a light frost. If these vegetables are planted too late in the spring, summer heat reduces their quality by forcing some to flower and form seeds and others to develop off flavors, bitterness, poor texture, and low yields.
Cool-season crops planted in the fall garden grow well when days become cooler. Cole crops, such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, are excellent for the fall garden. Seeds of cole crops should be sown by July 15 to produce transplants for planting by Aug. 15. Transplants of the cole crops available can be planted in the garden from July 15 until Aug. 15.
Several plantings of leaf lettuce and radishes can be made since they are ready to harvest around 35 to 50 days after planting, depending on the cultivar. Due to the heat, it would be best to sow lettuce seeds in the shade of other plants in the garden because the seed does not germinate well at high temperatures. Continue to plant leaf lettuce until Sept. 1 and radishes until Oct. 1.
Mustard greens, kale, carrots, collards, endive, beets, and turnips can all be seeded in the garden from July 15 until around Aug. 15. Spinach can be seeded in the garden from August through Sept. 15.
Remember, cool nights slow growth, so vegetable crops take longer to mature in the fall. Keep this slower-growing pace in mind when checking seed catalogs for the average days to maturity. Some of the best quality vegetables are produced during fall’s warm days and cool nights. These environmental conditions add sugar to cole crops and crispness to carrots.
When starting the fall garden, you may have to water seeds after planting so they germinate, depending on the weather. Continue to watch the seedlings to make sure they have adequate water to grow but not too much.
Keep in mind more insect pests are present in fall gardens than in early spring gardens. Identifying insect pests allows for the use of appropriate control measures for the situation. It is always a good idea to remove plants that have finished producing. By eliminating garden debris, hiding places for insect pests are reduced.
If you have removed some of the finished spring vegetable crops, this space can be used again. You should not plant closely-related vegetables from the spring crop back in the same rows because of possible disease and insect carryover. Practicing crop rotation helps prevent the buildup of diseases and insects in your garden.
Polyethylene (plastic) row covers made into low tunnels can be used to extend the growing season of some warm-season crops into the fall. Some cool-season crops may benefit from row covers as well.
To construct tunnels with polyethylene, push hoops 14 to 16 inches tall, made of number 9 galvanized wire, into the ground 3 to 5 feet apart at the time of planting. When frost is predicted, cover them with clear polyethylene. Bury edges of the plastic in the ground.
During sunny fall days following frost, vent the tunnel by loosening the sides or ends of the plastic to keep it from becoming too hot for the plants. Certain frost-tolerant vegetables may grow during the winter months under cover as well.
Bed sheets can be used
as a temporary floating cover over crops when a light frost is predicted. Spun bound materials will also provide a couple of degrees of protection.
Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky contains more information about fall gardening (http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf). Also, contact the Daviess County Cooperative Extension Service at 270-685-8480 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cool-season crops such as kale, spinach, and other leafy greens may mature under solid polyethylene row covers, called low tunnels, into or even through winter as long as temperatures are not extremely low. However, the cover must be managed on sunny days by ventilating it to prevent damaging hot temperatures.
Join the Kentucky Victory Garden program by going to the “Plan. Eat. Move.” website at https://www.planeatmove.com. Click on the upper right corner, “Growing Your Own Garden,” for information and a printable Victory Garden poster.