Fall Vegetable Garden - U of I Extension

News Release

Fall Vegetable Garden

This article was originally published on July 23, 2009 and expired on August 15, 2009. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.

At the peak of the season when fresh produce is abundant, it is difficult to think about planting more crops. However, the supply will dwindle, and late July through September is the time to extend the vegetable growing season by planting a fall garden, according to David Robson, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, Springfield Center.

This planting will add more vegetables to your supply and make use of the full growing season. The fall garden requires less time and labor because the soil was already worked up in the spring. Many vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, are of higher quality when grown in the fall rather than during the mid-summer. Some vegetables, such as kale and Swiss chard, develop a better flavor after a frost, but they should be planted now.

Remove all previous crop residues before seeding fall vegetables. As in spring planting, till the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches and incorporate 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of all-purpose dry garden fertilizer (12-12-12, for example) per 100 square feet.

Plant the seed according to directions on the seed packets. A good rule to follow is to plant the seed about four times its diameter. Keep the soil evenly moist until the seedlings are up and growing; the upper two inches of soil must be moist at all times to ensure germination. This is particularly important because the soil dries quickly.

One easy way to hold moisture is to place a board over the row until the seedlings start to emerge. Once they start to break through the soil, remove the board promptly. The seedlings should be protected from the sun until they are well established. Boxes placed over the plants or boards placed alongside the rows will provide temporary shade.

Transplants should be planted slightly deeper than they were growing in the container. Firm the soil around each plant and water thoroughly with a starter solution. Prepare by mixing 2 tablespoons of a soluble, high phosphorus fertilizer in 1 gallon of water and apply to the plants.

Cabbage can be directly seeded in the garden. Since transplants of broccoli and cauliflower usually are not readily available in midsummer, they should be started 6 to 8 weeks before planting time.

The suggested planting dates for a number of fall vegetable crops for central Illinois are July 24 to August 5 for beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, endive, snap beans and summer squash. For Cos lettuce, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, mustard, turnip and winter radish, plant August 15 to 24. Leaf lettuce, mustard, spinach, spring radish can be seeded from mid-August to mid-September. The rest of the fall gardening program is standard procedure. Watering and weed control are the order of the day until harvest or frost.

Gardeners that do not want to plant fall crops can improve garden soils and reduce problems next year by cleaning up all debris including weeds and removing them from the site. Then sow rye, wheat or annual ryegrass for a winter cover crop. These crops generally smother out weeds while increasing the organic matter content of the soil with roots and top growth.

Source: David J. Robson, Extension Specialist, Pesticide Safety, drobson@illinois.edu

Pull date: August 15, 2009