For the backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer, there is still time to put seeds and plants in the ground. There are many choices available in vegetables and cover crops to take advantage of the cooler fall harvest weather and utilize the abundant rainfall and still optimal soil temperature, especially if the grower has the ability to utilize season extension.
Those who followed the Fall Vegetable Planting timeline are harvesting basil, lettuce, radishes, green beans and summer squash now. Monitor for frost closely and be ready to use season extension to protect tender crops.
There are still some choices to direct seed, these will need season extension to allow harvest into November and later:
- Asian Greens
This arugula was started from seed under grow lights. It will be transplanted outdoors in a week. This was done to allow more time for flea beetles, a major pest of arugula, to finish its life cycle.
I still have several lettuce plugs from an earlier project that will be transplanted outside under row cover in a week.
There are several pests to continue to monitor for this time of year. Slugs will be numerous if organic matter levels are moderate to high. Deer are a serious threat due to decreasing amounts of fresh forage. They will consume nearly all fall planted vegetables without protection. The Cabbage White butterfly can persist in the environment deep into fall and their larvae can eat large amounts of foliage.
Spinach that will be grown overwinter in low tunnels under row cover should be planted withing the next couple weeks from direct seed. Check out this Growing Franklin post for a documentation of that process.
It is important to keep something growing all year long and avoid bare ground. This is especially critical over winter to avoid loss of fertility and organic matter from erosion. There are still several choices available including grasses such as rye or oats, legumes such as crimson clover or vetch and brassicas such as forage radishes. The choice of what to plant depends on what the goal is, what crop will follow and the grower’s ability to manage the crop in the spring.
This past weekend I prepared the area that had previously grown cucurbits into a seedbed.
I had used woven plastic landscape fabric as mulch and weed suppression for my winter squash and pumpkins. This was my first foray into using this method and I was impressed by how effective it was. The only drawback was that after removal the ground had reverted to its base state as a heavy clay soil. I think it is imperative that I cover crop following plasticulture to improve soil health going forward.
Note the bindweed seedling that persisted under black heavy weight landscape fabric. The fabric was placed in early June and temperatures were in the 90’s multiple times this season.
There is still time to plant cover crops. I planted a mix of winter rye, hairy vetch, crimson clover and forage radish. This mix will require intensive management in spring, but will persist over winter and provide multiple soil health benefits.
To find out about cover crops, fall vegetable planting as well as many other topics there will be a class on Fall Garden Projects to Benefit the Spring Garden at Grandview Heights Public Library on Tuesday October 16th, at 7pm.