Being as hot as it is in July you might not think of fall vegetables while feeling like you are under a broiler every time you step outside. However, fall vegetables need time to grow to be able to set fruit which can be harvested in the fall and winter. Get out your gardening calendar and start writing down planting dates so that you have a bounty of vegetables to harvest once the weather does start cooling off.
If you plan on having your own pumpkins for Halloween plant them in early July. Most varieties need 100 days of growth for a good sized pumpkin. If you do not have much space choose a variety that is labeled “short vine” or you can train the vine up on a sturdy trellis or deck.
When your tomato plants start looking sad from disease or if you have determinate varieties which have finished fruiting you can use a cutting from a mature bush to propagate a new plant, which is much faster than starting plants from seed. Simply cut a healthy looking branch to about 12 inches. Remove all the lower leaves and keep the top two leaves. Using a pencil or stick make a hole about 10 inches deep. Insert the cutting so that only 1 inch is above ground. If you have rooting compound you can use it, but this is not usually necessary for tomatoes. Water deeply and keep the ground moist. Use a holly or other leafy twig as an umbrella to shade the cutting for 10 days. Keep well watered and the cutting will be rooter and growing strongly in about 2 weeks. If you prefer to start tomato plants from seed choose only cherry or grape varieties at this time of year as larger varieties may not have enough time to mature before our first frost date. Tomato seed is best started from June 15 to July 15 for a fall crop.
If your fall tomatoes are not setting fruit this may be from poor pollination due to heat and humidity. Twice a day go through your tomato plants and flick the flower clusters with your fingernail. This will help disperse the pollen.
Around July 1 you can start several vegetables from seed like green beans, English peas, cucumber and cauliflower. Be sure to get these germinated before August 15. Southern peas can also be planted until August 10.
Then starting on August 1 you can work on getting carrots, broccoli, collards, kale, turnips, beets and zucchini in the ground Carrots will grow larger if interplanted with chives, so leave space for the chives, which can be sown starting September 1. Radishes and spinach can also be started on September 1, being sure to get them in the ground before October 15.
In July and August you should also start seeing transplants available in garden centers. These will give you a jump start and possibly have you harvesting your fall crop sooner. Be sure to buy plants that are healthy with strong, white roots that are not pot bound. Also, choose garden centers or nurseries that water regularly and do not allow their transplants to dry out excessively.
Prepare the planting bed well by incorporating compost, even if you added some in spring, as composted organic material will have broken down by now. Top this off with a 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch. Keep the mulch away from plant stems and do not mulch seedbeds until the plants are 2 to 3 inches high. Water beds before planting or sowing seed and keep a close eye on soil moisture if we do not get rain.
Do not fertilize at the time of planting. New seedlings and transplants will be stressed by high temperatures in July and August and need to be given a chance to put out a good root system before they start putting on fruit. A starter fertilizer can be applied at this time as it will help promote root growth.
Green onions can be planted from September 1 through March 15. Sow seed every two weeks throughout this planting season for a continuous crop. Dry bulb type onions are planted October 10 till November 10 and again starting in early January. Have these in the ground by March 15.
Rosemary, sage, thyme and parsley can also be planted in September. When buying parsley transplants you will often have more than one plant per pot. Carefully separate the plantlets and space them according to the label instructions for healthier and more robust plants. Bring some Rosemary sprigs indoors to dry for winter use. Herbs can also be chopped finely and placed in ice cube trays, covered with water and frozen.
Enjoy your fall vegetables and start planning for your spring garden by collecting seed catalogues and going over the notes you made on how different vegetables and different varieties performed in your garden over the past year.
By Jane Burke
Ref.: Month-By-Month Gardening in Georgia by Walter Reeves & Erica Glasener
Vegetable Planting Chart by UGA Cooperative Extension – Circular 963