About Starting A Vegetable Garden
Ensure that the planting area is prepared with the best soil for growing vegetables. Consider a soil test (available at local agricultural extension offices for free).
Water new seeds and transplants daily until established. Water mature plants as needed, monitoring them for signs of drought stress (such as wilted or drooping leaves).
Using a soaker hose or drip irrigation will reduce watering needs and help keep the moisture off the plants’ leaves to limit fungus problems.
Each year when August rolls around, I think of fall vegetable gardening. I regularly fail to plan ahead in the spring. I get so excited about all the warm season vegetables, I forget to save room for the cool season ones in the fall.
Have your plants been bombarded by grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars and the like? Are your tomatoes and peppers so overridden with fungi, bacteria or viruses that you cannot stand looking at them anymore? Did you do a better job of planning and, thus, have room in your garden? Either way, cool season vegetable gardening can be a delightful and positive way to end the summer.
In order to know what to plant and when, we have to start at the fall harvest time and work our way backwards. Average first frost in our growing zone is mid-October. Keeping that in mind, there are two classifications of cool season crops: hardy and semi-hardy. Hardy vegetables will usually survive a light frost and can grow well with daytime temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Semi-hardy ones, on the other hand, do not like freezing temperatures and prefer it much warmer.
Next, decide what you want to plant. Do you like spinach, turnips and kohlrabi? Or, how about broccoli, green onions, peas and cauliflower? I am a big fan of greens in the fall, because you harvest them much sooner. Young greens make a wonderful addition to a salad. Radishes are another favorite of mine. There are varieties that can be harvested in as little as 30 days.
Now, read the seed packet and get out your calendar. For example, if you want to plant leeks now, they likely would not be ready for harvest for 120 days. By that time, we would have had at least one hard freeze, if not several. Instead, look for plants that you can harvest in 65 to 70 days. Colorado State University Extension has a vegetable planting guide that we can use to help us determine which crops we want to plant this fall. cmg.extension.colostate.edu/Gardennotes/720.pdf.
Some nurseries locally will even carry starter plants, so you can skip the whole germination period and end up with yummy veggies even sooner. If you like herbs, most of them can be harvested earlier, similar to young greens. Fall planting can be done in containers, raised beds or the ground.
Arianna Kelley Rawlsky has an M.S. in horticulture and is the director of Bringing People and Plants Together, an organization dedicated to bringing horticulture education and therapy to the community. For more information: PeopleAndPlantsTogether@gmail.com or follow us on Facebook.