Tips for Establishing Fall Vegetables

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Row cover over crops

Cover newly seeded or transplanted crops with row cover to protect them from excess heat and pests.

While it is time to start planting your fall garden, establishing seeds and plants in the heat and dry conditions of late summer can be a challenge. Here are a few tips that will help you overcome these challenges and get your fall garden off to a healthy start:

  • Use row cover to protect young plants and seed beds. Row cover will shade plants from intense heat and prevent the soil from drying out too quickly. It will also serve as a barrier to pests, particularly caterpillars. Examples of different types of row cover cloth that are commercially available are discussed on this online retailer’s website.
  • Water! Use soaker hoses to apply water directly to the soil. Place hoses immediately adjacent to seed rows and young plants.
  • Check plants and seed beds daily for the first few weeks – water when the top few inches feel dry.
  • Plant seed deeper than in the spring, around ½” to 1” deep.
  • Mulch transplants and garden beds. A 2” layer of shredded leaves, straw or ground pine bark will keep moisture in the soil and prevent weed seed from coming up. Plus this mulch can be tilled in at the end of the season to add organic matter to the soil.
  • Don’t mulch over top of seeded areas! This could bury seedlings too deep and prevent germination.
  • Incorporate an organic or slow release fertilizer into the soil at planting time. If you not sure which nutrients your soil needs, submit samples for soil testing.
  • Seed a winter cover crop such as crimson clover in any areas that you do not plant with crops.

Be sure to get these crops in the garden within the next few weeks if you wish to grow them this fall:

  • Root crops that must be seeded directly into the garden: beets, carrots, kohlrabi, radish, rutabaga, and turnips
  • Cole crops: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, and kale. These should be set out as young plants and given plenty of space to mature.

The following quick growing leafy greens can be seeded now for earlier harvest or you can wait another few weeks for temperatures to moderate. To extend the harvest season, sow a batch now and make a second planting in mid-Sept.:

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Swiss Chard
  • Mustard

Cool season annual herbs such as cilantro, dill and parsley can also be seeded in the garden now or set out as transplants in mid-Sept. Learn more from this recent Chatham Gardener post, Extend Your Garden Into Fall, and from N.C. Cooperative Extension’s Vegetable Planting Guide.

Learn more from these N.C. Cooperative Extension resources:

Use Extension Search to find research based information from Cooperative Extension systems across the U.S.

Visit your local Cooperative Extension center to learn more about gardening and landscape care. Find your county Extension center.

Subscribe to the Chatham Gardener email list to receive timely updates on sustainable lawn, garden, and landscape care for the central NC Piedmont.