Fall vegetable gardening tips:
Take time to think before planting
Sep 20, 2015
By Sandi Coleman/Victoria County Master Gardener
Edited by Charla Borchers Leon/Victoria County Master Gardener
PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Plant fall season vegetables now for extended harvest. Short-term plants like peppers, potatoes, tomatoes and others on the list accompanying this article will be harvestable until the first frost. Long-term broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, onions and parsley, to name a few, are frost tolerant and will last longer into the season.
PHOTO BY SANDI COLEMAN/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
Master Gardener Sandi Coleman has planted tomato plants in garden soil bags and has had a successful harvest by growing them this way.
Fall vegetable plants are shown in an untraditional setting. Garden soil bags have been slit on the bottom for drainage and are opened on the other side where plants have been planted.
I know it may be hard to think about planting a garden right now, but now is the time for a fall garden - and here are some tips I have acquired in my own time gardening. Before you plant, think a moment about your garden. Get a soil test and then prepare your soil.
Test the soil
After sending soil to be tested, I just received my soil test results back from Texas A&M University. So now what?
A soil test is a process by which elements (phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, sulfur, manganese, copper and zinc) are chemically removed from the soil and measured for their availability to a plant. The quantity of the nutrients that are available in the sample determines the amount of fertilizer that is recommended.
The soil test measures the soil pH, organic matter and exchangeable acidity. Now, there is no need to guess how much fertilizer or lime is needed in your garden.
Prepare soil before planting
Soil types vary greatly and some drain better than others. The success of any garden depends on soil drainage. Checking to see how wet or dry your soil is before you plant is important. If the soil doesn't drain well, it is important to amend the soil or vary the contour of ditches to allow moisture to not stand in your garden spot. Success or failure can hinge on drainage and soil preparation.
Work your soil to a depth of at least 8 inches. This can be done by hand or with a garden tiller. Check your soil to see if it is too wet to till by taking a handful and squeezing. If the soil retains its shape, it is too wet. Wait a day or two and try the squeeze test again. If the soil is loose and crumbly it is ready to be turned.
Add plant-based organic matter in the amount of 2 to 3 inches or an inch of compost made with manure to the soil. Plant-based organic material can include grass clippings, shredded leaves and compost. Work this into the soil about 6 to 8 inches.
Fertilize. Apply commercial slow release fertilizer or organic fertilizer. Add the fertilizer before you plant and work into the soil 6 to 8 inches.
Traditional garden size
A good size for a garden is four feet wide and as long as you want it. That way you do not have to walk in your garden to plant or weed. You can have a 2-foot area in between and have another garden 4 feet wide. If you do this then you will not have to walk in your garden area and you will not compact the soil.
I do not have an established garden. I use garden soil bags to grow tomatoes. I poke holes in the bottom of the bags to let the water drain. I then cut two holes in the other side and plant whatever tomato I want to grow. One has to water every other day because the bags dry out very fast. I have enjoyed a good harvest growing my tomatoes this way.
Old-time planting by the moon
When I was growing up my mother would tell me when it was time to plant. She did not have any of the modern planting guides or even think of writing to or contacting Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. She used the moon as her guide. Here are some of the things she told me.
Plant above ground crops from the day after the new moon until the day of the full moon. This is known as the "light of the moon."
Plant root vegetables from the day after the full moon until the day of the new moon. This is known as the "dark of the moon."
Plant below-ground crops when the moon phases through the earth signs - Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn; plant above-ground crops when the moon phases through water signs - Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces.
Weed your garden when the moon is in the infertile air and fire signs - Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius and Aquarius.
Vegetable specialist training
All theory aside, I have completed training as a Master Gardener Vegetable Specialist through Texas A&M University and will be recognized at the next Texas Master Gardener Conference.
To become a vegetable specialist, I had to attend a hands-on, multiday training. My class was in San Antonio, and after attending the class, I then had to accumulate 20 hours doing educational programs. I can now help support the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension efforts in educational programs.
As always when working in your garden, keep trying and never give up. Hard work pays off in the end - as it has for me.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.
• Irish potatoes
• Sweet potatoes
• Summer peas
*Group together; remove when damaged by frost.
• Brussels sprouts
• Brussels sprouts
• Plant broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower every six weeks to extend harvest.
• Don't let vegetables get too big.
• Find out what size is best to harvest (small, medium, big or giant).
Available through local Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Offices Victoria County, call 361-575-4581 or go by the office at 528 Waco Circle near Victoria Regional Airport