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Fall Vegetable Gardening

Hi, my name is Kristine; I joined the Good Earth team several years ago and this is my first blog post! I’m so excited to share my vegetable gardening experiences with you. Along with two of my friends, I have a garden at the community gardens at Two Rivers Park. Together we are “The Two Rivers Trio”.  In May of 2019, our garden was flooded with over five feet of water. It took some time, but we rebuilt and this year, our success has been better than ever.

In the video above, Gregg is sharing about growing fall vegetables in containers; be sure and watch his tips. The information below is primarily about in-ground growing but some tips are applicable to both methods.

Fall is a great time for a nice cool weather crop in Arkansas. Because we have a long growing season, many of the cool weather vegetables planted in the spring can be grown again in fall. After summer crops have been harvested and the plants begin to die out, it’s time to replant your garden favorites before the cold winter months hit.

Keep reading for tips on how to grow a successful fall vegetable garden!

Location

Remember sunlight is essential to any plant growth. The majority of vegetables (peppers, tomatoes, etc) require at least six hours of direct sunlight. Some crops, such as leafy vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower and root crops like onions, beets, carrots and radishes  can grow successfully in a little more shade. Therefore, choose your location based on the light needs of your plants.

Soil Preparation

Your first step is to clear your beds by removing dead plants and weeds. Turn the soil and check the pH level of your soil. Spring and summer plants may have depleted some of the nutrients from the soil. Adding rich compost such as Cotton Burr Compost will help by adding nitrogen and potassium to enrich the soil.  Composts and manures have different nutrient values and some mostly break up heavy soil by adding organic matter and may or may not have a high nutrient content. This is why fertilizer is key; more details below on that. You may also need to add lime or calcium to balance the pH.

Choosing Your Vegetables

Before choosing your fall vegetables, check the date for the potential frost, generally end of October to mid-November. Do a little research to determine how many days to maturity for each plant to assure that you will have a successful crop before the weather turns too cold. Generally fall vegetables fall into three categories.

  • Tender: More susceptible to light frosts; cucumbers, peas, and tomatoes
  • Semi-hardy: Can tolerate moderate frost and freezes; carrots, cauliflower, potatoes
  • Hardy: Tolerate harder frosts; broccoli, cabbage, kale

Keep in mind that some fall vegetables can be sown directly from seeds, but you will also find that a wide variety will work better to start as plants.

Carrots, radishes, parsnips, turnips, and spinach can be easily grown from seed. Seeds require consistent moisture and a sunny area to sprout. Sometimes these will need to be watered twice a day, depending on the rain.

Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and collards can be planted as seedlings. Although kale, beets, and lettuce can be started from seed, you might have better success planting seedlings.

If starting from seed, you can start in seed trays or small pots then plant in the garden, or sow seeds directly in the garden. Follow seed packet instructions for spacing. Thin out weaker sprouts to create proper spacing instead of planting each seed at the spacing recommended. Soaking seeds overnight in water can decrease sprouting time and germination rates.

Not sure what to plant?  Check out the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service planting guide.

Water

Don’t forget to water, all plants need water even in the fall. Check often and water as needed. Water thoroughly and deep; light watering every day develops a shallow root system, so in a raised bed, water deep so the whole soil mass is saturated and then let dry out before you water again. Less water is needed when plants are small; water more as the plants mature.  The more foliage there is, the more water the plant will need, both in frequency and in quantity.

Weather plays a role as well; as temps cool down and we start getting more rain, you should be able to water less often.  The best rule of thumb is to check, and check often!

Although there are less fungus issues as temperatures cool, diseases still occur. If possible, water the roots and soil and avoid overhead watering. Soaker hoses are great for vegetable gardens!

Fertilize

Just like with your spring and summer plants, a complete fertilizer needs to be applied to keep your plants health. I recommend a slow release fertilizer, such as Osmocote Flower and Vegetable. If the weather is still very hot, use a slightly lower rate so that the tender seedlings do not burn. Increase as the plants become more stable and temperatures drop. For those keeping the garden organic, Espoma Garden-Tone is a great choice.

Inspect

Your fall crops are vulnerable to insects and as I mentioned above, vulnerable to diseases as well. Check your plants regularly to identify any potential issues that may arise.  An organic insecticide such as Natural Guard Spinosad Soap used regularly is an excellent way to avoid any chewing insects. Natural Guard Copper Fungicide can be applied to vegetables, herbs and fruits to treat many diseases.

It’s Not Too Late!

Fall is an excellent opportunity to get one more crop from your garden before winter.  Many of the same vegetables grown in the early spring are also successful during the fall months.  Come visit us at The Good Earth Garden Center for all your garden needs; right now (early September), we have plenty of cool season vegetable seedlings and seeds to choose from.  Our cool season vegetables and herbs have arrived just in time for you to reap the benefits of a successful fall crop.

Here is another great resource to reference:

UA Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension (2020).  A-Z Vegetable Gardening in Arkansas.  Retrieved from

https://www.uaex.edu/yard-garden/vegetables/a-z.aspx