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Time to start planning for a successful Fall garden

4 months ago From missouriagconnection

Some of the best quality garden vegetables are produced and harvested during the fall season when warm, sunny days are followed by cool, humid nights.

However, there are also problems with getting a fall garden started according to Patrick Byers, a horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

"August brings with it high soil temperatures, high light intensity and rapid soil drying. These factors present real problems with getting uniform stand of plants," said Byers.

In August, the surface of the soil can become very warm and dry out quickly.

"The weather combined with the fact that vegetable seeds should not be planted any deeper than three times the diameter of the seed, makes planting depth and protection for the seed crucial," said Byers.

Byers recommends applying a light layer of mulch over the row of newly planted seeds to retain moisture. Gardeners can also try screen wire strips, shade cloth, or boards to cover the row from the intense heat.

"This will moderate both soil temperature and soil moisture, but you need to remember to remove coverings after seedling emerges," said Byers.

When it comes to seeds, Byers says it is fine to use seeds left from the Spring planting.

""If the seeds were stored in a cool and dry place they should be good for planting. Seeds stored in the freezer properly should remain viable for several years," said Byers.

Soak seeds overnight before planting (except beans and peas). This will hasten germination and seedlings emergence when soil drying is most critical to plant growth.

Short season warm vegetables like beans can still be planted for a fall harvest. Cool season veggies like beets, turnips, lettuce, spinach, and radish can be direct seeded.

The timing of the planting is crucial and can be determined based on the average frost date in the area where the garden is being planned.

"The average first frost date for the fall in the Springfield area is Oct. 17. Check your seed packet for the days to harvest and count back from the frost date to determine the best time to plant," said Byers.

Byers says it is a good idea to supplement rainfall with trickle irrigation to get early established growth. Soaker hoses are good sources. Cover seeded rows with mulch to reduce soil temperature and premature drying.

For additional information on fall planting dates, visit your local University of Missouri Extension center and request Guide 6201, "Vegetable Planting Calendar." The guide is also available online at extension.missouri.edu.


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