For The Answer
Weekly Express-News Article
Autumn has arrived and it is time to plant the fall garden.
Broccoli is the
most productive of the fall vegetables and one of the easiest vegetables
to grow. Prepare the soil by
adding one – two inches of compost and a cup of slow release
lawn fertilizer per 50 square feet of bed.
Turn the soil over with a tiller or shovel and rake it smooth.
Place broccoli transplants every two feet on the row with 18
inches between rows. Broccoli
requires full sun to produce well.
Water in the transplants and then water every day for a week if it is sunny. You can use a wand to water, or better yet water with drip irrigation. Your irrigation contractor can put it in for you or you could assemble a kit purchased from your favorite nursery or home improvement store. Fertilize broccoli and other vegetables every four weeks with one cup of slow release lawn fertilizer for every 10 feet of row.
Expect the initial large heads about Thanksgiving time. After they are harvested the plants will produce side shoots until late winter. Broccoli is not as susceptible to cabbage loopers as cabbage, but the caterpillars show up and can damage the leaves enough to reduce the production of the heads. Use a Bt product like Dipel, Bio Worm Control, or Thurcide at the first sign of loopers. Harvest broccoli when the buds are still green and tight for best palatability. As the buds in the head open and show some yellow color the broccoli becomes more nutritious, but most consumers find it less desirable to eat.
Cauliflower is closely related to broccoli and is grown in the same manner. Cauliflower is slower to produce a mature head than broccoli. Plant them now for harvest in late winter or early spring. To keep the curd white wrap the leaves around the head as it forms. The leaves can form the desirable cover if you use an old-fashioned spring clothes pin to hold the leaves together.
Brussels sprouts form a large plant just like broccoli and cauliflower. They are also slower to produce than broccoli, but sometime in early spring you can usually start harvesting the miniature heads off of the main stem.
Cabbage transplants should be placed in the garden now. Plant them about one foot apart. Heads will be ready to harvest in mid-winter. Other cabbage related vegetables such as collards, kale, and kohlrabi can also be planted as transplants or seed.
Carrots are one of the most versatile and useful vegetables that do well in the fall garden. Plant plenty because they will produce until late spring. Prepare the soil like broccoli, but rake it very smooth. Carrot seed can be applied to the surface of a one foot wide row. Watering it in with a wand and watering every day until germination works well. Reduce to watering every two or three days for 10 days and then when the soil dries after that.
Begin to harvest carrots when they are small if you like miniature carrots and then pull them as you need them. Carrots should be thinned to four inches between plants in late autumn for large roots.
Carrots are relatively small plants and very attractive so they make an ideal container plant for the winter. Plant a whiskey barrel full or mix them with leaf lettuce and onions.
Lettuce is more sensitive to cold then the cole crops (cabbage and broccoli) and carrots, but is especially easy to grow. The key to lettuce culture is to make sure the seed is not covered by soil. Lettuce seed requires light to germinate. Plant it like carrots on wide, well raked rows.
Beets are a great
crop for the fall garden in
Other greens that can be planted by seed are mustard, turnips, and chard. All are nutritious with distinctive tastes. Harvest the leaves as you need them all winter long. The “Bright Lights” selection of Swiss chard is especially attractive in the garden or container. The stalks are blue, red, yellow, white, and orange.
Rutabagas and turnips can be very productive. They quickly produce large roots than can be boiled and prepared like potatoes. To me the rutabagas has a milder flower and is more desirable, but turnip seed is easier to find. If your favorite nursery does not have rutabagas on the seed rack, order some on the internet.
Radishes will produce
roots for salads and fresh eating in about three weeks. There are red globe radishes, long white radishes,
and long red radishes. Plant
radishes every few weeks for a continuous supply. Pick them when they
are young for the crispiest texture and mild taste.
Other vegetables to consider for the fall garden are onions, spinach, and English peas.