MASTER GARDENER — Preparation and planting needed for an Autumn vegetable garden

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, September 13, 2023

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Gardeners, many of you know me personally and understand my love for animals, especially dogs.

Gardening will always take second place. So, it is with a heavy heart and tear-stained cheeks that I write this week’s gardening topic. My beautiful, loyal and most faithful companion of 23 years was euthanized Friday morning.

Her heart condition, while managed for several years through numerous medications, was unfortunately progressing. As Tiger’s quality of life began to rapidly deteriorate, we decided it was time to reach out to our veterinary clinic, who truly made our most heart-wrenching, emotional moments a bit more bearable considering the difficulty of the situation.

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The NVC (Nederland) team made space available immediately upon our arrival, which included a pallet made of soft, comfortable blankets. The clinic staff and Tiger’s veterinarian were on-hand, standing by to make certain Tigers final moments were comfortable, gentle, loving, caring moments provided to her with respect.

I will be forever grateful to each of you! Tiger, you are the smartest, most amazing dog I’ve ever known, thank you for sharing your life with me. You truly are missed and will be remembered!

Fall is here, well almost…okay, okay, technically autumn officially begins the 22nd of September, so fall’s cool breath is near at hand. Walking about the gardens this morning was fantastic with lower humidity and cooler temperatures, indicative of rapidly approaching seasonal changes.

It’s a great time to begin fall cleanup and preparation for vegetable gardens. September is a gardener’s ‘swing’ month, or as I call it a “preparation month.” Most of us (me included), consider fall the best season for planting cool season vegetables, trees, and shrubs. Even though summer season remains (the remaining days of his brutal grip are limited).

If replacing a spring or summer vegetable garden, top dress the soil by incorporating organic material, such as composted manure and humus to ‘refresh’ the planting area with nitrogen.

Turn the organic matter into the soil before planting, to provide an initial supply of nutrients. If creating a new garden, add additional fertilizer, such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10, then apply a 4-inch layer of organic matter (compost) before planting.

Let’s get started utilizing the following steps:

Garden Cleanup – The best way to prevent insects and diseases from affecting the vegetable garden is through cleanup. Remove diseased foliage and spent plants now. This is especially true with crops such as tomatoes, potatoes, melons, and squash. Pests and diseases enjoy overwintering on these vegetables when they are left in the garden to decompose. It is never a good idea to compost these plants, instead burn them to mitigate the risk of pathogens being introduced into next year’s garden.

Soil Improvement – Fall is a good time to add nutrients which improve the garden soil. Once diseased and dying vegetation are removed, add a 3 to 4-inch layer of well-rotted manure or compost, covering the surface of the soil. Using a garden spade, turn the amendments into the top several inches of soil, then rake to remove clumps. If the area was previously mulched, simply spread the soil amendments over the mulch, then turn amendments and mulch simultaneously.

The following vegetables & herbs grow well in our area and can be direct sown or transplanted into the garden this month: Arugula, Basil, Bush Beans, Beets, Broccoli (transplant), Brussels Sprouts (transplant) , Cabbage (transplant), Carrots, Cauliflower (transplant), Chives, Collards (transplant), Cucumber, Daikon, Endive, English peas, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leek, Lettuce, Mint, Mustard, Onion, Pak Choi, Parsley, Rosemary, Summer Squash, Swiss chard, Spinach, Tatsoi, Radish and Tarragon (Mexican), and Turnip greens.

Purchasing transplants from local garden centers or feed stores will get the garden off to a quick start, but seeds provide for a greater selection and are far more economical and cost effective.

Remember when planting seeds to thoroughly soak furrows with water before planting to increase seed germination, then lightly mulch. Never allow the furrow to completely dry – water daily until germination occurs.

Harden off transplants by slowly introducing them to full sun a few hours each day until the plants can manage the sun’s full intensity which typically takes several days to acclimate transplants before planting. A planting calendar makes seasonal planting easier and provides a detailed view of planting timelines.

A “best practice” for gardeners is to maintain a garden planner (I use a leather-bound notebook to draw & label bed rows) to document vegetable types & varieties, plant locations & dates planted, dates fertilized & harvested.

I also place notes beside each vegetable planted describing characteristics such as, performance, heat and pest tolerance, bounty of harvest, disease tolerance, etc. A garden planner also makes easy management of crop rotation.

Vegetable Planting Calendar

The planting calendar highlights the optimal time to plant vegetables for our growing seasons, in USDA Zone 9A or 9B. Our planting season extends all the way to the end of the year if the days are mostly sunny and warm.

The planting calendar assists gardeners plan when to start seeds indoors, or when to start or transplant seeds/seedlings outdoors, and roughly when to expect to harvest crops from seeds planted.

So long for now fellow gardeners, let’s go out and grow ourselves a greener, more sustainable world, one plant at a time!

Send comments and questions to Texas Certified Master Gardener John Green at