I hope everyone is surviving this wet weather we have been locked into this summer. Of course, this is the time of year we are usually begging for rain. With all the rain, it is hard to think about planting anything else in the garden, but it is time to plant a few fall crops, so hopefully it will dry off enough to get a couple of seeds in the ground.
First off, it is time to plant green beans. I am especially ready for this one — I missed the spring planting, so I have been waiting for this. Many people, including my wife, say that the taste of a fall crop of green beans far surpasses that of spring-planted beans. They all taste good to me. According to the Extension website, you can plant green beans from July 25 to Aug. 10.
One thing that changes for the fall garden is watering. Your new plants will not have a deep root system developed, so if it does dry off and turn into a normal August, you will need to keep the ground moist (not soggy) to protect them from the hot, summer sun as they develop. One good way to do this is to mulch with straw, grass clippings or something similar. Mulch will keep the ground around the plant a little cooler, as well as protecting the soil moisture. Planting your seed a little deeper will help with this also. By planting a little deeper, about 1 to 2 times the recommended depth on most plants, it will get the roots started a little deeper and protect the seeds from the dry, summer sun. Just remember to keep the top of the soil from forming a hard crust that the seedlings can't break through.
One good thing is the work in a fall garden diminishes as time continues. In the spring and early summer, the weeds and insects multiply. In the fall garden these two adversaries will start to diminish, although you will need to stay on top of them at the beginning. As the summer draws on, there are not many new plants for insect pests to "chew"on, so your new plants will be a succulent treat for them at the start. A lot of these pests will be coming to the end of their life cycle, so they will not be around long to blemish the fruits of your labor.
For those of you that started your own seeds, this is also a perfect time to start hardening off your fall cabbage and other cole crops to get ready to put out. I wish I would have started mine like usual, but I didn't, so now I will be hunting for a place to buy my plants. Usually there will be at least one area supplier that will carry fall cole crops.
When transplanting your fall cole crop, it is best to plant it 2 inches or so deeper than it was in the pot. I usually pinch off the bottom two leaves and plant several inches of the stem in the ground. The plant will develop roots along the stem, which will help in the hot, dry, latter days of summer. When cooler weather hits, your plants will be rarin' to go!
One other thing to keep in mind, in order to get another growing season out of the garden, fertilizer and liberal amounts of compost or other organic matter should be applied to the soil. Fall's predominantly leafy vegetables are heavy feeders. If you have grown another crop in the same area, the nutrients might be depleted.
Hope you all are ready for the second shift. You'll be glad you did when all the tomatoes, corn and other summer vegetables are over with and you have some fresh greenery to munch on.
Peter Sutter is a lifelong gardening enthusiast and a participant in the MU Extension's Callaway County Master Gardener Program. Gardening questions can be sent to [email protected]