By Seth Nagy
For the Salisbury Post
Cool season vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, spinach and lettuce produce their best flavor during the cooler growing season in the fall.
Now is the time to plant broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots and cauliflower. Wait until August to plant quicker maturing vegetables like turnips, kale, lettuce and spinach. Onions, mustards and radishes can be planted in September.
Before planting, remove the previous crop and any weeds. Prepare the soil by tilling or spading 6 to 8 inches deep. If planting where the previous crop was heavily fertilized, you may not need additional pre-plant fertilization. Otherwise, apply 1 to 2 pounds of fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 10-20-20 per 100 square feet of bed space. Apply fertilizer before tilling.
Direct seeding (planting seeds rather than using transplants) can be done in the fall. Seeds should be planted deeper in the fall because of soil moisture and temperature. I suggest planting seeds one to two times deeper than normal spring planting.
Soils may form a hard crust that can interfere with seed germination. Covering the seeded area with burlap cloth, newspapers or straw mulch will help keep the soil cool, moist and prevent crusting. If newspapers are used, make a hole for the seedlings. Another technique for fall planting is to open a deep furrow, plant the seeds, then fill the furrow with potting soil.
Plants need about 1 inch of water per week. It’s best to irrigate deeply two to three times per week than daily. Initially, young seedlings may need more frequent, light irrigation, but once established, water them less frequently. Deep, infrequent watering keeps the soil from getting waterlogged and encourages deep root development.
Fertilize fall vegetable crops just the same as spring crops. For most crops, apply fertilizer three and six weeks after germination.
Insects and diseases are more abundant in the fall. The populations have built up during the spring and summer. To combat this heavy insect and disease pressure, keep vegetables healthy and actively growing. Plants that are healthy are less susceptible to insects and diseases. Check plants frequently for insect and disease damage. Treat when sufficient damage is detected. Use an approved pesticide and always read the label. Growing squash, corn and cucumbers is more difficult in the late summer and fall because of the insect and disease pressure.
Good luck with your fall garden. If the upcoming winter is mild like last year’s winter, you will be enjoying fresh produce from your garden all winter long. More complete information on fall vegetable gardening can be found at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/hil/pdf/hil-8001.pdf
Seth Nagy is county extension director in Caldwell County.