For The Answer
PRIMETIME NEWSPAPERS WEEKLY COLUMN
Week of October 8, 2001
By Calvin Finch, Conservation Director, San Antonio Water System, and Horticulturist
FALL VEGETABLE GARDEN
Your tomatoes should have small fruit on the plants by now, so you can harvest in November before freezing temperatures arrive. I have been harvesting peppers and eggplant. If you did not fertilize when the fruit first set, go ahead and apply a half cup of slow release lawn fertilizer spread over the root system and away from the stem for each pepper, tomato and eggplant plant. Mulch helps keep the weeds in control and keeps moisture levels even in the soil to prevent blossom end rot. The blossom end rot is not as much a problem now when temperatures are cool as it was in late spring, but we can still experience dry hot spells.
Control hornworms with a Bt product. The voracious caterpillars are usually first noticed when a few top branches are stripped. Often the droppings are evident. The caterpillars grow fast and can strip a plant in a week. Usually there is only one hornworm per plant; so, if you search thoroughly, you may be able to pick it off. They are masters of camouflage, however, and even when they reach little finger-size they can be tough to find.
The cabbage loopers on your broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are much easier to find than the tomato hornworms. Control them with Bt products like Thuricide, Dipel and Bio-Worm Control. It is not too late to plant the cole crops. Transplants are best but collards and kohlrabi do fine if planted by seed.
Other vegetables to plant in the garden now include carrots, onions, lettuce, beets, radishes, turnips, chard and rutabagas. Be especially careful about covering the seed of carrots, onion and lettuce too deep. I just spread the seed on the top of well prepared, raked, loose soil and keep it moist for a week until the seeds germinate.
Bright Lights swiss chard is a great new vegetable. Use it like any other greenboiled, seasoned and buttered. The special attraction of Bright Lights is that the stems are very decorative. They come in red, orange, yellow, and pink and make a knockout display worthy of the flower garden.
I learned this autumn why it is tough to grow sweet corn and summer squash in the fall garden. The corn earworms couldnt even wait for the ears to form, they fed on the immature leaves. Squash vine borers moved quickly to attack the squash plants. If you are conscientious with thiodan powder applied every week to the growing point of the squash, the borers can be controlled, but this year I was too late.
Later this autumn (November) plant spinach transplants. Fresh spinach from your own garden in South Texas is a healthy, tasty treat. If your children or grandchildren do not normally like spinach, grow some with them, let them harvest the individual leaves themselves, and then they can make the salad. Many a young gardener changed their opinion of the vegetables after experiencing fresh spinach from their own garden.
Fertilize your foliage vegetables and onions every four weeks with two cups of slow release lawn fertilizer applied along every 8 ft. of row. For root crops use one cup of fertilizer per row.