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The fall garden: greens and root crops

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Kohlrabi is a cabbage relative that forms a bulb just above ground level that can be sliced and eaten raw or added to salads.

Eric Derstine

Eric Derstine

Friday, August 11, 2017

As the back-to-school season begins to pick up, the fall gardening season does as well. Fall gardening provides you with the ability to continue growing your own produce as the summer harvest slows down. Most gardening practices in terms of irrigation, fertilizing and pest management are the same for a summer and fall garden. However, selection of crops, starting and harvesting of these crops may be different. The most common fall garden crops are cole crops and root crops. This article will give you tips to ensure a successful fall garden!

Cole crops and greens

Early-to-mid-August is the time to seed your greens such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, lettuce, kale, spinach and Swiss chard. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards and kale crops will have a better stand if transplanted instead of direct seeded. Seeds started now in containers of potting soil will be ready to set out in the garden by mid-September. Lettuce and Swiss chard can be either transplanted or direct seeded while spinach produces its best crop if direct seeded into the garden. Cabbage, collards and kale are hardy plants that can provide a steady harvest throughout the winter. Lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard and other salad greens can be harvested throughout the fall, but typically do not survive the coldest months of winter. Protection from the elements using a cold frame or row cover can extend the harvest period of these crops.

Root crops

Root crops, along with most vegetables, grow best when their seeds are sown straight into the ground. Root crops do not like to be moved or disturbed once they begin to grow. If you would like to grow turnips, beets, parsnips, carrots, radish or rutabaga, plant the seed directly into your garden between now and mid-September. For something different, consider cabbage’s cousin, kohlrabi. Kohlrabi is a cabbage relative that forms a bulb just above ground level that can be sliced and eaten raw or added to salads.

Getting them started

When sowing seed directly into the garden, first cultivate the soil and rake it level to create a smooth seed bed. Be sure to keep newly seeded areas consistently moist since young seedlings die quickly if allowed to dry out. At the same time, do not overwater as this can promote disease growth. Don’t forget to thin seedlings once they start growing. Leave enough space between plants for them to reach mature size. For example, carrots only need to be thinned so individual plants stand approximately 2 inches apart while cabbages would need to be thinned or planted to allow at least 1 foot between plants.

For more information on starting your fall garden, visit your local extension office or call the Pitt County Master Gardeners at 902-1705. Thanks for reading and happy gardening!

Eric Derstine is the horticulture agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service-Pitt County. Contact him at eric_derstine@ncsu.edu.