Although it doesn’t feel like it because it’s still so hot, it’s time to start thinking about your fall garden.
Fall is my favorite time to grow vegetables because all my personal favorites thrive in the cooler weather of fall and winter. It is when many brassica family vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale and greens such as collards, mustards and turnips grow.
These vegetables are some of the easiest to grow and the most nutritious you can prepare. This group of vegetables contains high levels of vitamin C, potassium, beta carotene and fiber.
In addition to vegetables in the brassica family, tomatoes, peppers, okra and eggplant can continue through the fall to make another crop before temperatures drop. Artichokes, carrots and spinach can also be grown in the fall and winter. With so many options, it’s time to get busy planning — and planting.
Broccoli can be planted from September through October for harvest in November to December and again in January through February. You can start seeds now to produce transplants that will be ready to go in the ground or garden beds in five to six weeks.
Space your transplants 9 to 12 inches for smaller broccoli heads and 16 to 18 inches for larger heads. Some recommended varieties are Packman, Diplomat and Decathlon. You can also try raab, also known as rabe or rapini, which resembles small heads of broccoli and has a nutty flavor.
Cauliflower also can be planted in September through October for harvest in November and December. Or you can wait until January and February to plant for harvest in March through May. Plant seeds now to produce transplants in five to six weeks. Space plants 10 to 12 inches apart for 3-to-4-pound heads or 16 to 18 inches apart for larger, 5-to-7-pound heads. AgCenter vegetable specialist Kiki Fontenot suggests varieties such as Snow Crown, Cumberland, Candid Charm and Colored Mix.
Cabbage should be planted between September and early March, but skip December and January. Heads can be harvested November to April. Space at 10 to 12 inches for 3-to-4-pound heads and 16 to 18 inches for 5-to-7-pound heads of cabbage. Heads should be firm like a softball when harvesting. Some recommended varieties are Blue Vantage, Bravo, Rio Verde and Salad Delight (red). Copenhagen, Flat Dutch and Early Season are best for smaller home gardens.
Carrots can be planted in late August to early October for harvest in November through March, or you can plant again in January through February for a harvest from April to May. You can direct-seed carrots into the ground and thin them out to 1 to 2 inches between plants. Loosen the soil and sprinkle seeds on top, tamp the seeds and water them in. Some recommended varieties are Purple Haze (purple), Danvers 126 (open pollinated), Apache and Choctaw (both hybrids).
If you are a first-time vegetable gardener and afraid to dive right in, Fontenot recommends trying greens. These are some of the easiest vegetables to grow, and you can get several harvests from the same plant.
Plant in September to November for a quick harvest from September to February, and again in January through early May for harvest in the spring through early summer. Direct-seed and space 3 to 6 inches apart. Recommended mustard varieties are Tendergreen (heat tolerant) and Golden Frills. For turnip greens, try Royal Crown, Tokyo and Scarlet Queen Red Stems. If you prefer collards, go for the Georgia Southern, Champion and Top Bunch varieties.
Garlic also can be planted September through October for harvest in May through June. Garlic takes nine months in the garden. When you notice leaves beginning to yellow and fall over, you can harvest gently by lifting with a garden fork. Store in a dry place for five to seven days. Be sure to plant garlic toes 2 to 3 inches deep with the base side down. Some recommended types are Elephant, Creole and Italian garlic.
Spinach can be planted October to early December for harvest in November to April (10 to 12 weeks). Soak seeds overnight for better germination before planting at 1 to 2 inches apart. Some recommended varieties are Melody, Ballet and Tigercat. You can typically get up to three harvests from one plant in a season.
Artichokes can be planted late October to mid-November for a harvest the following spring. It takes 12 weeks from seeding to transplant, so your best bet is to find transplants at local nurseries. Space 3 to 4 inches apart and harvest when buds are 3 to 4 inches in diameter and when bracts are tight.
Irish potatoes can be planted using small whole potatoes. Do not use seed pieces because they are more susceptible to hot temperatures and moisture that encourages fungal diseases.
Vegetables are heavy feeders. Start with a preplant application of complete fertilizer such as 13-13-13 at the label’s recommended rate. An additional side dressing of ammonium or calcium nitrate will provide enough nitrogen to boost higher yields. Side dress broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower at three to four weeks after being transplanted, and side dress greens three to four weeks after transplanting. Side dress a couple of inches out from the stems of plants and be sure to water in fertilizers to prevent plant burning.