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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers.

Fall Vegetable Gardening

Fall, the new season of vegetable gardening

Horticulture Educator Kelly Allsup encourages gardener to grow cool weather vegetables this fall. When most are cleaning up the debris left behind by the summer's determinate tomatoes, spent green bean vines or remnants of the sweet corn patch some gardeners are just getting ready for their most productive growing season, fall. The weather of fall offers a second chance at growing cool weather vegetables commonly planted in early spring. In addition, the cooler weather decreases water requirements and the pressures of garden pests.

Plant broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage transplants in late summer/early fall while the weather is still warm. Apply fertilizer two weeks after planting to get substantial growth before temperatures cool and water regularly. According to Jenifer Nelson-Schultz, Extension Horticulture Educator, when the nights get cool then the flavor is better and a light frost makes the vegetables taste sweeter.

-Plant seeds of carrots and beets in succession plantings to get multiple harvests. Root crops such as carrots and beets need deep loose soil. Seeds must be planted ½ "deep and space to 2" when sprouts are 2-3" high. These vegetables are best harvested when tender and young to use fresh preparation. Water is most important while seeds are germinating. Be sure to harvest some of the beet tops to eat as fresh or prepared greens.

-Plant lettuce, arugula, spinach and cilantro seed to use in fresh salads. Leafy greens can be started in pots or in squared sections of your garden by broadcasting seeds. Starting in just a few weeks, you can harvest micro-greens to add on top of a decadent dish or in four weeks make a freshly grown salad. These crops can also be planted in succession plantings to get multiple harvests.

-Plant separated garlic bulbs mid-September through mid-October, before the soil freezes for a bounty of garlic next summers. The fall weather helps garlic form roots and start sprouting before the cold treatment of winter is needed for proper development.

In the fall, gardeners should plant saffron crocus bulbs, in order to harvest of the bright colorful stamens the next spring. Water bulbs only when the foliage and flowers appear and treat like a tulip bulb by letting the foliage ripen before removing. Gardeners should plant crocus bulbs by burying 3" deep and 3" apart.

Watch the forecast for frost advisories and use frost cloth, newspapers or homemade season extender on days when the temperatures get below freezing. According to the USDA zone hardiness map, Bloomington Normal is zone 5 b and the first frost date may occur on October 21 but averages October 15-31.

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