By Beverly Adams, For the Forsyth County News
Just the other day I received an email from a Forsyth County resident about a cucumber plant that was in decline, and he wanted to know what to do to get it back to “normal.” My response to him was there was nothing to do; it’s the end of the season for that cucumber plant, so pull it up and start thinking about a fall garden.
As summer vegetables stop producing and the hours of daylight become fewer, it’s time to start planning and preparing our fall gardens. One advantage of gardening in the fall is cooler temperatures that make gardening more pleasant. Another advantage is that most fall vegetables are leafy green plants that don’t require pollinators to produce the part we eat. This means gardeners can use low hoop houses to protect the plants against pests and to capture a few more growing days out of the fall season.
Living in north Georgia, we have a delicate balance between starting fall vegetables early enough to allow them to mature before a hard frost and nursing them through the seedling stage while the summer days are still hot. In addition to excluding pests, the shade cloth covering of a low hoop house blocks out some of the heat from the sun, allowing us to plant cool season vegetables in late August. Later in the season, the shade cloth traps heat from the earth inside the hoop house and can raise the temperature around our crops by a few degrees. Some cool season vegetables can overwinter in the garden for an early spring harvest.
Because they take longer to mature, some fall vegetables are best purchased as transplants. These include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. Vegetables that can be planted as seeds are beets, bunching onions, carrots, collards, kale, lettuce, mustard, radishes, spinach, swish chard and turnips.
Here are some cultivars of cool season vegetables that do well in Georgia:
Broccoli – Marathon, Packman, Patriot, Premium Crop, Bravo, Decathion
Cabbage – Blue Dynasty, Bravo, Early Round Dutch, Rio Verde, Green Jewel
Carrot – Chantenay, Scarlet Nantes, Sweetbites, Sweet Delight
Cauliflower – Absolute, Early Snowball, Graffiti (purple), White Magic, Symphony
Collard greens – Blue Max, Georgia Southern, Hevi-Crop
Kale – Vates, Dwarf Siberian, Blue Armor, Blue Knight
Lettuce – Butterhead, Romaine, Buttercrunch
Mustard greens – Florida Broadleaf, Southern Giant Curled, Red Giant, Savannah
Onion, green – White Portugal
Onion, dry bulb – Burgundy, Excel, Grano, Red Creole, Savannah Sweet
Radish – Cherry Bell, Scarlet Globe, Champion
Spinach – Melody, Winter Bloomsdale.
Early fall is also a good time to have your soil tested. A laboratory soil test takes the guesswork out of determining whether you need fertilizer or lime for your fall garden crops. Visit the Forsyth County Extension website at http://extension.uga.edu/county-offices/forsyth/agriculture-and-natural-resources/soil-and-water-testing.html for directions on taking soil samples, then bring your dry soil to the Extension office along with the $10 testing fee.
If you’re new to food gardening, here are more tips for a successful fall harvest:
• Locate the garden in full sunlight — six to eight hours per day;
• Prepare the soil before planting based in soil test recommendations;
• Plant on schedule using recommended varieties
• Control weeds, pest insects and diseases;
• Water thoroughly at soil level when needed to supplement rainfall.
For more recommended cultivars and planting dates, refer to the UGA Vegetable Planting Chart Circular 963 http://extension.uga.edu/publications/files/html/C963/C963VegeChart.pdf. And, as always, if you have any questions please to contact your Forsyth County Extension Office at 770-887-2418. We are here to help you succeed in your garden and landscape adventures. Happy Fall Gardening!
Beverly Adams is the Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Assistant for the UGA Extension Forsyth County.