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East Texas Ag News: Fall gardening

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Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 5:14 PM CDT
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ANGELINA COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - While fall makes most folks think about football and hunting seasons, there is a tried-and-true group of folks that also think about fall gardening. Yes, fall gardening is one of the best times of the year.

The fall vegetable garden is just as much a possibility as a spring one, just different. Establishing a fall garden is different as you may work in some heat up-front. Watering is also approached with a different mindset. Water will be crucial to establishing the summer growing vegetables.

Mulching, a wonderful practice for all gardens, will be much easier with the abundance of leaves on the ground. Just a light layer of mulch will greatly aid in keeping moisture in the soil next to the developing roots and keep weeds at bay.

Pest control for fall gardens should be less. Insect problems that are commonly experienced in the spring will be reduced. Disease issues that arise from cool, moist environments may also be diminished while early fall-planted seeds are getting started.

The biggest proponents of fall vegetable gardens will always brag on the harvest. Produce harvested in milder weather is reported to taste better. The time spent harvesting, choosing which squash or beans to pick, is obviously more comfortably done.

Yet with fall gardening, you’ll have a hard deadline from many common, warm-season vegetables. That deadline is our first frost.

Most vegetables traditionally grown in the spring and summer must beat the frost. Now the average first frost for this area is mid-November. The keyword is average. Sometimes it may be near Christmas, and other times it will be prior to Halloween.

To extend frost-sensitive crops, you can use a row cover. Purchased locally or online, these thin fabric covers can give a few degrees of protection. And for our first frost, just a few degrees is all we need. Available in a wide variety of widths and lengths, they serve double duty for keeping insects off young, tender plants.

Looking ahead, we have approximately 45 days from the end of September to mid-November. With that time frame, it would be wise to ignore traditional spring/summer vegetables. Generally, a frost (31-33 degrees F.) will kill beans, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peas, pepper, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes, and watermelon.

I’d suggest you consider broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, lettuce, mustard, onion, radish, and turnip. They’ll take colder temperatures (26-31 degrees F.). Their foliage may burn but should be killed.

For true cold, really cold, weather tolerance plant beets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, collards, kale, parsley, and spinach.

So, while you are out In a deer blind or watching a football game, remember that with proper selection and proper planting time, we can grow vegetables this fall, thru the winter and we’ll be ready for next spring.

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