This time of year makes me think of gardening with my grandmother. I can remember warm summer evenings in the vegetable garden, pulling weeds, and picking vegetables. We would spend Saturday morning shelling beans, shucking corn on the front porch as cars occasionally passed by on our country road. When it got hot we would move to the kitchen and wash vegetables in the sink. Sundays we would listen to gospel and country records while we would eat cornbread, beans, sweet corn, and okra that my grandmother had spent the morning preparing.
Our vegetable garden was productive because we paid daily attention to the plants growing there. The old saying is, “the best fertilizer is the farmer’s footprints.” The more you are in the garden, the earlier you can spot problems and deal with them.
In Henderson County, summer vegetables are just getting going. Tomatoes are ripening; squash, zucchini, and cucumber are producing prodigiously; corn is tasseling. Gardeners are busy canning and freezing their summer crop.
However, the summer garden is almost over. It is time to start thinking about the fall garden. Here are a few chores to get prepared for the cooler season crops such as lettuce, kale, sugar peas, and broccoli.
August – Crank up the old tiller and prepare your fall vegetable garden soil. Nothing is as fun as creating a whirling dervish of dust on a hot, sticky August evening; so get some organic matter and incorporate it into your soil. Plant snap beans and Irish potatoes before the middle of the month. Plant cucumbers and squash now, too, because there is just enough time for them to mature and start bearing fruit. Squash vine borer is not nearly as bad in the fall so if your plants did poorly this spring, try them again. Start onions, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage from seed in an area out of direct sunlight.
September – This is the month to plant those seedlings you have worried over for the last 4 weeks. Plant your turnips, spinach, radishes, onions, mustard, lettuce, collards, carrots and cabbage from seed or transplants in the garden this month as well.
October – The weather should be cooling off but, it can be hot and dry this month. Water the vegetable garden as needed. Weed the garden and reapply your mulch also. The first frost of the fall can occur in the middle of October. Be prepared to provide some frost protection to tender summer plants such as tomatoes so you can extend your harvest.
November – You should be harvesting your fall vegetables by now. If you have been diligently scouting your garden for pests and fertilizing and watering regularly then you should have a great bounty of fall vegetables.