Starting your fall vegetable garden

County Agent’s Corner

Broccoli makes a nice late season crop. Direct seed now or transplant around Aug. 25.

Broccoli makes a nice late season crop. Direct seed now or transplant around Aug. 25.

Many of our summer gardens may be winding down. Now is the perfect time to plan and plant our fall gardens. If you still have a craving for snap beans, you can sow a late crop this month. Also, now is a great time to plant a second round of various peppers and heat tolerant tomato varieties, such as Amelia, Solar Fire, and Bella Rosa.

Cole crops – such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale – are ideal fall garden candidates. Start them now. They do great when planted as transplants.

Summer vegetable transplants, like peppers and tomatoes, must be protected from cool temperatures either in a greenhouse or with a frost cloth cover. Additionally, supplemental heat may be required. However, with fall varieties, no structure or heat is necessary.

They can be started and finished outside. Tips for terrific transplants

1. Choose the right media. For transplant success, a soilless mixture is imperative. Many good mixes are available commercially. Quality mixes will cost more, but are definitely worth the investment. Cheaper mixes tend to drain too fast and contain large particles of amendment that are not suitable for seedling germination and growth. If you would like to take the DIY approach, mix equal parts by volume of sterile potting soil, vermiculite, and moistened sphagnum peat moss.

2. Use the right container. To reduce transplant shock, seeds should be planted in individual containers, such as cell packs, peat cups, jiffy peat pellets, or paper cups. No matter the container, each should be clean and disease-free with holes that allow proper drainage.

3. Sowing depth. When sowing your fall vegetable seed in your container of choice, be sure not to plant too deeply. Generally, seeds should be covered just enough so that they are no longer visible.

4. Provide adequate moisture. This is most important. Plants should be checked every day to make sure the media is moist, but not soggy.

After seedlings have emerged, the inclusion of a water-soluble fertilizer prepared according to the label recommendations is needed for successful transplant growth. Also, be sure to protect young seedlings from the sun for the first few days to avoid sun scorch. When the transplants are four to six weeks old, they will be ready for the garden.

So, if you have never grown a fall garden, why not let this be your year? If you have, then why not try something new? No matter your varieties of choice, get those cole crop transplants started now. Hope this is helpful! Happy Gardening!

Bethany A. O’Rear is Regional Horticulture Agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service (ACES). Bethany is available to answer your questions about conservation, agriculture, natural resources, and gardening. She can be reached at (205) 612-9524 or bethany@aces.edu.