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Cool-Season Vegetables for Fall Gardens

October 01, 1988|BILL SIDNAM | Si dnam is an avid gardener and writer, who resides in Orange County.

In most other regions of the country, when they speak of an autumn vegetable garden, it is not planted in the fall, it is planted in midsummer, and hopefully some of the vegetables can be harvested in early autumn before the first major fall frost destroys them.

Not so in the Southland. An autumn vegetable garden is planted in very late summer or early fall; the vegetables grow through the autumn and reach harvest stage in late autumn or early winter. And there is no need to be concerned about a killing frost.

Pleasant Gardening Experience

We live in one of the few regions of the world where vegetable gardening is possible year-round, and if you've never grown an autumn vegetable garden, you've missed one of the most pleasant of gardening experiences.

In our area, an autumn garden means growing the cool-season vegetables that thrive in our warm fall days and cool, crisp evenings. It is my favorite gardening time of the year. The autumn days are warm, yet comfortable. The weeds grow slower, and there are fewer of them. Watering still is necessary, of course, but not as often as spring or summer. Insects slow down their activities and many disappear and don't return until spring.

Get your garden in as soon as possible; as the days grow shorter, the growing time until harvest increases greatly.

What are the cool-season vegetables to include in your autumn garden? Choose from the following: beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (including Chinese cabbage), carrots, cauliflower, celery, chad, collards, cress, endive, escarole, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mustard greens, onions, parsley, parsnips, peas (including edible-podded and sugar-snap peas), potatoes (if you can locate seed potatoes this time of year), rutabagas, radishes, salsify, shallots, spinach and turnips.

Most of the above will have to be planted from seeds, but some, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and celery, are available as transplants at most local nurseries. You will save about six weeks of growing time by utilizing transplants.

As the sun is not as intense in the autumn, it is necessary to locate your garden where it will receive a lengthy period of sunlight each day.

Spade and work your soil and enrich it with organic materials such as compost and peat moss and add a balanced vegetable fertilizer to it. Water your garden area and let the soil settle for a couple of days; then sow your seeds while the soil is still moist.

Generally speaking, until our rainy season begins in late November, you should irrigate your garden weekly; more often during hot spells or if you are gardening in containers.

For many of these cool-season vegetables, the harvest period will begin in mid-November. Some, like radishes and leaf lettuce, will be earlier; others, like Brussels sprouts, will be later.

If you are new to vegetable gardening, when planning the size of your garden, my advice would be to think big but start small. Start with a small plot and see how you like it. Vegetable gardening can easily overwhelm the novice, as proper garden maintenance makes large demands on one's time.

A common mistake of many beginning gardeners is planting cool-season vegetables during warm weather and warm-season crops during cool periods. For instance, peas are a cool-season crop and if planted in our warm season they do very poorly. Beans are a warm-season crop and will fail when planted during the cool season. If you match the crop to the season, gardening can be a year-round pleasure in the Southland.

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