Dishing the dirt: Plan a fall vegetable garden now

Published 5:49 pm Thursday, July 28, 2016

For our area, usually plant a fall vegetable garden starting about mid-August. If started later but by early September, it is still possible to harvest vegetables before cold weather sets in. Although the first light frost usually hits the first week of November, a hard freeze does not occur until about the middle of December. A late start would provide still at least 60 days of growing season for warm weather (no frost) crops such as some varieties of beans, squash, cucumbers and 100 days for cool weather crops that tolerate light frost.

Fall vegetables include essentially the same vegetables that we plant in late winter and early spring: lettuces, radishes, beets, peas, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, mustard and turnip greens and turnips. To this list, add Brussels sprouts, which grow much better in the fall. As you decide what to plant, consider the time required for your vegetables to produce (listed on the seed packet) and also the period for harvest. For example, consider snap beans, which will die with the first frost. If it takes 55 days to first produce beans and has 15 days of harvest, there should be at least 70 days between the time you plant and the first frost. Planting them by the first of September still might be okay if there is no early frost.

Consider another example of turnips, which also takes typically 55 days to produce. Turnips, however, tolerate frost and will continue to grow and produce until there is a hard freeze. For herbs, parsley, cilantro and dill will continue to grow during the winter if it is not severe. Lastly, plant garlic by early November; it will continue to grow slowly over the winter for harvest by May.

Be also aware that the growing environment is somewhat more hostile for planting vegetables in late summer. Since the weather is usually hot and there can be an abundance of rain from storms or too little rain causing drought conditions, getting plants to grow properly can be challenging. In addition, insects are usually more prevalent and require more attention and effort to suppress them. Some vegetables, such as peas, do not germinate well in hot soil (85 degrees), and nematodes, which are microscopic small worms in the soil that attack the roots of many vegetables, thrive in hot weather.

This information is given courtesy of the Extension master gardeners, who are volunteers under the direction of the Beaufort County Cooperative Extension. Volunteers are available through the hot line to answer questions concerning lawns, vegetables, trees, ornamentals, fruits, plant problems and diseases, pests, soil and many other horticulture issues relating to gardening in North Carolina. The hot line telephone number is 252-946-0111 and the hours are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon. You can leave a voice message at that number or email the master gardeners your question at and a volunteer will return you call on the next hot line work day.

Dan Bergbauer is a certified master gardener volunteer.


Gardening Calendar August

Lawn Care
• Treat all lawns for grubs with the recommended insecticides.
• One-third of the growth should be removed when mowing warm season grasses.
• Try to change direction when mowing your lawn. This will help strengthen the roots system and expose different sides of the plant to sunlight.

• Be sure to fertilize strawberries with nitrogen this month.
• Do NOT fertilize shrubs this month.
• Now is a good time to take soil samples from your lawn especially if you plan to put out cool season grasses. Soil boxes can be picked-up at the county Extension office, 252-946-0111.

• Vegetables to be planted in August: beets, Chinese cabbage, cucumber, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, radish, rutabaga, spinach, squash and turnips.
• Transplant broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower plants in mid-August.
• Continue repotting overgrown houseplants.
• Plant pansy seeds in flats this month so they can be transplanted to the landscape in September.
• Perennial seeds to sow this month: hollyhock, delphinium and stokesia
• Spider lily, colchicum and sternbergia bulbs should be planted this month.

• Late summer is not a good time to prune trees and shrubs because pruning will stimulate new growth. That new growth will not have enough time to harden before it turns cold. Late January and February are the best times to do major pruning.
• Any dead or diseased wood can be pruned out any time of the year.
• Excessive growth on wisteria vines should be stopped to encourage blooms. Cutting back runners and root pruning can do this. Use a sharp spade and insert the blade to its full depth in a semi-circle about 6 feet from the main stem.

• Watch shrubs for the following insects: spider mites and lace bugs.
• Use recommended herbicide to control poison ivy, honeysuckle, greenbriar, kudzu, trumpet creeper and wisteria if desired.
• Continue with rose spraying program.
• Continue fungicide program for fruit trees and bunch grapes.
• Peach and nectarine tree need a trunk spray for peach tree borers at the end of August.
• Spray the following vegetables if insects are observed: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and squash. Pesticides should be used sparingly! Use only when needed and always follow the label.