The time is now for fall and winter crops

Special to the Herald-Guide
September 09, 2010 at 10:00 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

The time is now for fall and winter crops
By LSU AgCenter horticulturalists

If you planted a spring/summer vegetable garden, don’t forget to keep your garden productive with fall and winter plants. Some of the most popular and delicious vegetables are grown in Louisiana during the cool season from October to May.

Novice gardeners have a steep learning curve as they first get started. Common mistakes include inadequate bed preparation, planting at the wrong time, crowding plants too close together and improper harvesting. It’s important to understand that a vegetable garden needs frequent, regular care to be successful. Even when the gardener does everything right, pest problems can damage or destroy a crop after all the effort. Fortunately, successes generally outweigh disappointments.

As we move into the cool season, root crops such as carrot, radish and turnip are an important part of the garden. Root crops are always directly seeded into the soil – never transplanted. Plant bush snap beans and lima beans now so they’ll have time to produce a good crop before cold weather. Bush varieties produce faster and concentrate their harvest in a shorter period of time than pole beans, making them preferred for fall planting.

Plant seeds of bulbing onions, bunching onions and leeks this month. Sets, or small bulbs, of bunching onions and shallots may also be planted this month but don’t plant sets of bulbing onions until early December. Select short-day varieties when choosing seeds or sets for bulbing onions.

Onion seeds are slow to germinate and need a constant supply of water during the process. The seedlings grow slowly at first, so be patient. Onions, shallots, leeks and garlic should be planted in October and are long-term residents in the cool-season vegetable garden. Work also needs to be done in the herb garden. Regularly remove the flower spikes of basil to encourage plants to continue to produce leaves.

Ultimately, the plants will begin to wind down. Basil transplants could still be planted into the garden now for a late crop.

August can be hot and dry, and you should pay careful attention to the water needs of the garden. Newly planted transplants and seed beds are especially vulnerable to drought conditions and may need frequent – even daily – irrigation. As seeds come up and transplants become established, water deeply and less frequently to encourage a deep root system.

High populations of insects are around now, so be vigilant and treat problems promptly. Caterpillars can be particularly troublesome in the fall garden. Regular applications of Bt, Spinosad or Sevin insecticides will keep their damage to a minimum.

Vegetables to plant in September:

Transplants or seeds of beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, collards, English and snow peas, Irish potatoes (plant small, whole potatoes saved from the spring crop), kale, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, mustard, onion, radish, rutabagas, shallots (plant sets), snap beans, Swiss chard and turnips.

Herbs to plant in September:

Transplants of basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, chives, lavender, Mexican tarragon and mints. Seeds or transplants of dill, parsley, fennel, cilantro, arugula, borage, chamomile and chervil.

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