Despite the fact that Oklahomans are just getting into the heat of the summer, gardening enthusiasts need to be planning for their fall garden crops. Some of the best quality garden vegetables are produced and harvested during the fall season when warm, sunny days are followed by cool, humid nights.
Under these climatic conditions, plant soil metabolism is low; therefore more of the food manufactured by the plant becomes a high-quality vegetable product. To ensure a bountiful harvest in the fall, gardeners need to start getting ready now.
“As with any garden, adequate soil preparation, available garden space, space for plantings and obtaining the quantity and varieties of seed must be taken into consideration, commented Ray Ridlen, Horticulture Educator for the Oklahoma County OSU Cooperative Extension Service. “Some crops are more easily grown when seeds are started indoors then transplanted as seedlings to the garden at a later time.”
Transplants and seeds can be planted in the garden in mid-July through September. Keep in mind that the time of planting is dependent upon the length of time required to produce the crop, Ridlen stressed.
Germinating seeds in the backyard garden is often easier said than done. The surface of the soil, when exposed to the summer sun, may become very hot, as mush as 140 degrees. To overcome these hot, drying conditions that inhibit germination we are going to have to intervene. A dark screen stapled to a 2 x 4 board laid over the row, along with weeping hose irrigation should overcome the germination problems. Lettuce is the only garden vegetable that requires light for germination.
Seeds leftover from the spring planting can be used if the seeds were stored in a cool, dry location or in a refrigerator or freezer, Ridlen explained. When gardeners are ready to plant the seeds, the seeds need to be soaked overnight (except beans and peas). This will speed up germination and seedling emergence.
“Soil preparation for fall gardens is just as important as it is for the gardens you planted in the spring, Ridlen stressed. “Modifying or improving the soil prior to and during the gardening season is vital for a successful garden.” Various fertilizer elements are necessary for plant growth, so a soil sample should be taken since several of the nutrients need to be incorporated with one of the tillage operations.
The answer to almost any soil condition is organic material. Organic matter needs to be incorporated into sandy soil to help reduce the drying of the soil and improve the water and nutrient holding capacity. Heavy clay soil combined with organic matter will improve soil aeration, water absorption and drainage.
Keep in mind that when conditions are favorable for growing vegetables, they also are favorable for grass and weeds. Mulch the soil or cultivate when the grass and weed plans are small and more easily eradicated.
A fall garden is a great way to maintain fresh quality produce. Gardens do take time and effort, but the results are more than worth it.
The following workshops will be held at the OSU Extension Center, 930 North Portland, OKC. They are free and open to the public. For more information about these or other upcoming horticulture classes, contact OSU Extension Center at 405-713-1125 or online at http://oces.okstate.edu/oklahoma.
Fall Vegetable Gardening
July 16th, Tuesday 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. and July 18th, Thursday, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.