In the Garden:
Lower South
August, 2006
Regional Report

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A bright, shady outdoor spot is ideal for giving cool-season vegetable transplants a head start on the fall season.

Fall is Here!

Fall is the best gardening season of the year here in the lower south. And fall has arrived! Despite the fact that it is still infernally hot out and many of our gardens are looking pretty sad right now, the fall gardening season is underway. You don't want to miss the wonderful fall season ahead. It just takes a little faith to walk out among the fried remains of a spring and summer garden to begin preparations for fall.

Most vegetables are at their best in the fall garden. Warm-season crops need time to ripen and therefore must be planted plenty early to allow for the natural slowdown at the end of the season. By growing them during the warm weather and ripening them during cooler temperatures, their quality is outstanding. Green beans, for example, are much better in fall than in spring.

There are a couple of vegetables that are not as well suited to fall planting. Corn struggles in the fall garden. It is attacked by several hungry caterpillar species and doesn't like growing in cool conditions after being planted too late. Tomatoes can also be challenging but are very doable if you start them early enough. I usually take my spring tomatoes on into fall, but find that by the time the heat lets up enough for them to set fruit well again, cold weather is just around the corner.

Prep Work
Before planting, strip away the remains of the spring garden and soak the soil deeply. Allow it to dry just enough to work it, then turn it over to prepare for planting. Provide another good watering just prior to planting. This preplant soaking will do young seedlings and transplants a world of good during these warm dry days.

Timing is Everything
The hot weather will soon begin to ease just a little, signaling that those blue-leaved veggies known as cole crops -- broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc. -- are ready to enter the scene. Get them in on schedule and keep them growing rapidly for best results. Stressed, struggling cole crops will not produce a bountiful, quality harvest.

Later on as the temps really cool down, lettuce, spinach, radishes, and other crops that insist on cooler conditions are ready to go.

While it's still hot, take care not to overdo it as you prepare the soil and start the early plantings. An hour or so early in the morning every day or two will go a long way toward turning an abandoned spring garden patch into a great garden in no time.

Fall is the best gardening season of the year so get set to grow your best garden ever.


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