Now that we are moving into the cooler weather of October, it’s time to start seriously thinking about your fall vegetable garden.
If you don’t keep your vegetable garden productive through the winter, you are missing out on some of the most delicious vegetables we can grow. There is an amazing selection that can only be grown here during the cool season from October to May.
Another reason for putting in a fall vegetable garden now is the mild weather. No matter how much you love gardening, you have to admit that it’s more enjoyable when the daytime highs are in the 70s rather than the 90s. And during the cool season, we generally have fewer insect, disease and weed problems to deal with compared to summer gardens.
Make your bed
Whether you are planting into an existing vegetable garden or starting a new one, you must pay careful attention to bed preparation to ensure success. Before planting, do a thorough job of removing any weeds that may have grown in the bed, or remove existing turf if this is a new bed. Spray existing weeds or turf with glyphosate herbicide to kill the weeds before removing them. Check the label for waiting periods between treating and planting.
Turn the soil to a depth of 8 inches and spread a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic matter over the bed (compost, composted or processed manure, soil conditioner, grass clippings). Sprinkle a general purpose fertilizer over the organic matter following package directions. For more specific information on what fertilizer to use, have your soil tested through your local LSU AgCenter Extension office. Finally, thoroughly incorporate everything into the soil of bed.
If you prefer to garden in raised beds, which are generally less labor-intensive and easier to manage, kill and remove any weeds or lawn grass growing (use glyphosate) where the beds will be built. Build the raised beds about 8 to 12 inches deep and 3- to 4-feet wide (your choice of materials, pressure treated lumber, brick, cinder blocks, etc.). The length is up to you.
Fill them with a blended topsoil or garden soil mix you purchase in bags from local nurseries or in bulk from local soil companies. Incorporate fertilizer into the soil, but you generally will not need to add organic matter to a typical topsoil or garden soil mix.
Cole is the old term for cabbage (as in coleslaw — cabbage salad). Cole crops include cabbage and several other related vegetables.
Broccoli is an easy-to-grow and productive fall vegetable. Transplants available at area nurseries may be planted now through late-October, spacing plants 12 to 18 inches apart in rows or beds. The 12-inch spacing will produce smaller heads but total production is greater.
Broccoli heads are harvested when the largest flower buds in the head are about the size of the head of a kitchen match. After the main head is harvested, side florets will be produced, and harvesting can continue for several weeks, often doubling the production of each plant.
Cauliflower transplants should be spaced 18 to 24 inches apart. Cauliflower produces only one head, so after harvesting, remove the entire plant from your garden to make way for planting something else.
For white heads, blanch the cauliflower by pulling the leaves up over the head when it is about the size of a silver dollar. Fasten the leaves with a clothes pin and check the head frequently. Do not blanch colorful types of cauliflower that are orange, purple or green. Harvest before the curds of the head starts to separate.
Other easy-to-grow vegetables that belong to the cole group include kale, romanesco, kohlrabi and collards. All of these can be planted from seed or transplants now through February.
Garlic may be planted now until the end of November by pressing individual cloves, big end down, into the prepared soil. The tip of the garlic toe should be about one-quarter inch below the soil surface. Space the cloves 4 to 6 inches apart in rows spaced about 15 inches apart.
Other vegetables related to garlic can also be planted now from sets (small bulbs), transplants or seeds, including green or bunching onions, shallots, bulbing onions and chives.
Root crops are also excellent for the cool season vegetable garden. Root crops should always be direct-seeded into the garden where they will grow and never transplanted. The tiny root the seed first sends out eventually develops into the edible vegetable. If this is damaged, as generally happens when you transplant seedlings, the result is a deformed root.
Plant the seeds rather thickly to make sure you get a good stand, and then thin the seedlings to the proper spacing. The following are some commonly planted root crops and the proper spacing: beet, 3 to 4 inches; radishes, 2 to 3 inches; turnips, 3 inches; carrots, 2 inches; and rutabaga, 4 inches.
GREENS: Greens are leafy vegetables. Some are commonly eaten cooked, like turnip greens, collards and mustard greens, while others are generally eaten raw, such as lettuce. Some are eaten both cooked and raw, including kale, Swiss chard and spinach.
Greens may be direct-seeded or planted with transplants. Make sure the spacing is appropriate by thinning direct-seeded plantings or planting transplants at the recommended distance. Some greens, like lettuce, produce a quick crop, while others will stay productive over months when cropped.
Cropping involves just removing the lower, older leaves for harvest and leaving the rest of the plant to continue to grow and produce. While all the greens can be cropped, Swiss chard and collards are especially productive harvested this way (planted now, they will stay productive until spring).
For accurate and state specific information on growing vegetables in Louisiana, the LSU AgCenter has extensive publications available online at lsuagcenter.com (click on Lawn & Garden).
What would you recommend I use to control dallisgrass in centipede grass? — Mitch Golloher
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