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Gardening with Laurie: It is time to start working on your fall garden

By By Laurie Garretson
Aug. 1, 2013 at 3:01 a.m.


Have you ever heard the expression, "timing is everything?"

That can certainly hold true for many things. When it comes to planting a fall garden, I believe it to be very true. Knowing the right time to plant certain crops for your fall garden can mean the difference between success and failure.

It used to be that the majority of gardeners just planted spring vegetable gardens. But over the past few years, more and more gardeners have come to realize how much better a fall garden can be.

This isn't to say that the fall garden doesn't have it's down side. It is not easy keeping seedlings or transplants happy this time of year. Plus, who wants to be out in this weather preparing a garden? Well, that would be all of us that want our homegrown tomatoes, peppers, squash and lots more fresh vegetables come fall.

The key to a successful fall garden is knowing when to get started. So many gardeners wait too late to get their fall gardens going. A good clue when to start certain crops, mainly tomatoes, is to check out the back of your seed packet or the tag in your transplant carton. Look how long it takes for that particular plant to mature. Keep in mind that our "usual" first frost is in mid-November.

To get any garden off to a good start, any time of year, it is best to till in lots of compost and organic fertilizer. Keep in mind that during summer plantings, the germination rate will usually depend more on the soil's moisture rather than the temperatures. Gardening at this time of year means paying very close attention to the water needs of each plant. Keep the soil moist but not really wet.

Mulching always helps to maintain soil moisture. Using a drip irrigation system, along with 3 or 4 inches of organic mulch will also help to control weed growth. Organic mulches can then be tilled into the soil come next spring and will help to condition the soil.

This time of year be on the look out for insect problems. There are many types of foliage-eating pests out there. You always want to address insect and disease problems at the first sight of trouble. Don't wait until you have an infestation.

Many gardeners still have vegetable plants from last season in their gardens and many are still producing. Pull them up or let them stay? That's the question. Well, take a good look at those plants and see just how healthy they look.

If there are no signs of diseases or pest problems and they are still producing, then you might be able to carry them through this next season. Peppers, tomatoes and eggplants are likely to be the easiest crops to make it through our summer heat and into the fall.

Carryover plants will need to be lightly pruned. Try to remove all weak or sickly looking limbs.

Give the entire plant a light trim job followed by some of your organic fertilizer. Most gardeners tend to cut way more off the plants than they should. Severe pruning of any plant at this time of year, in this heat, would not be wise. That would really weaken the plant. So keep pruning to a minimum.

Don't get carried away with your summer planting. There are tons of other fall weather crops to plant in the next few weeks. Be sure to leave room.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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