Preparing for Fall Planting

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about fall planting of vegetables. Even though it goes against our natural inclination to think about cool season vegetables in August it's definitely time. Like with any task good preparation is important for success.

My first step in preparing the garden for planting is to determine what I want to plant. Beets didn't do so well for me in spring but I want to try again and hopefully get a fall crop.  I planted the beets too late in the spring to really get them going but over the last year I've developed a taste for pickled beets and would love to have some from the garden. The lettuce did great in the spring, so much so that we couldn't eat it all! The spinach did great and I'll plant it again. The radishes didn't do very well but I suspect it was due to the hard soil I tried planting them in, big mistake. Root crops like room to stretch out and grow and hard soil doesn't let them get to work. I've fixed that issue by mulching over the soil this summer and letting other plant roots break up the soil in a new bed. Often plant roots can be good cultivators, in fact potatoes are well known for this quality.

I also hope to get more summer squash and beans growing. Some of the beans are already planted. Beans fix nitrogen in the soil and are great for replenishing nitrogen depleted soil. Please excuse the weeds in the pictures, they were told to go away but as usual they just didn't listen.

Now I have to decide where the plants are going. The bed that currently houses the last of our cucumbers will be an ideal place to start. It's the 4'x8' bed in my vegetable garden layout on the left side. I rigged up a trellis using branches and a piece of fence which worked great for the cucumbers until the cucumber beetles decided to show up. When they munch on leaves they transmit the bacteria for verticulum wilt which afflicted all the cucurbits in this bed. I won't be planting the squash in this bed but it should do fine for beets, radishes, lettuce and spinach. I'll divide it into several sections of about 1-2 feet and plant in alternating rows.

Before planting I needed to remove the vegetation that was there including several volunteer tomato plants. The cherry tomato plants are producing so much fruit that I just can't pick it all. You can see all the left over cherry tomatoes that fell all over the ground. Most of the tomatoes were split. I'll probably just collect them with a shovel and dump them off into the brushy outskirts of our yard. If I leave them in place I'm sure I'll end up with volunteers next year and my plan is to make new beds for the tomatoes of 2010.

The squash will go where my lettuce used to be in a 3'x4' bed. I planted 'Dixie' ,which is a yellow summer squash, earlier in the spring. It did OK at first then suffered from blossom end rot and squash vine borers. I'm hoping that by planting this late in the summer I can avoid any more borers. That's a huge advantage in fall gardening, fewer bugs to harm the plants!

What are you planning for your fall vegetable garden?