• Southern Nurseries

Fall Into Gardening With Us!

With summer coming to an end, everyone is putting away the flipflops and beach towels and pulling out the flannel and pumpkin spice! Leaves will begin changing colors, the air will be crisp, and the days will be shorter. Normally everyone loves the spring time. Getting your beds and garden ready. Planting a spring garden but, my favorite is fall. The colors, cooler weather, and of course the pumpkins.

By September it is time to start planting your fall garden. Normal vegetables to plant include radishes, turnips, beets, onions, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and lettuces. Before preparing the soil for a fall garden you must decide what to do with the remains of the spring garden. In most cases, you would remove the previous crop residue and and weed growth. Then till or spade soil to a depth of at least 6-8 inches. If spring crops were heavy fertilized you may not need to make an initial pre-plant fertilization. If not you can apply our Nitro Phos Flower and Vegetable fertilizer to the bed. Make sure you thoroughly incorporate. After planting you need to make sure you are adequately watering your new plants. Most vegetables require 1 inch of water a week. Do not over water. That causes root rot, and your plants can't come back from that. You can dig into the soil about an inch down to determine if you need to water or not.

It is not uncommon for insects and diseases to be more abundant in the fall, mostly as a result of buildup in their populations during spring and summer. You need to check plants frequently. If needed you can use an insecticide or fungicide safe for your garden. Here at Southern Nurseries we can help you determine what is best for your needs.

Harvesting fall vegetables

To get the best results from your garden, harvest produce properly and at the right time. Below are some tips to help you.

Beans, snap: For maximum tenderness, harvest beans before maturity when the pods are not completely full. Wash and refrigerate them immediately.

Beets: Pull early beets when they are about 2 inches in diameter. Larger beets are woody, especially in warm, dry weather. Remove all but about 1 to 1½ inches of the tops. Wash and refrigerate them immediately.

Broccoli: Harvest broccoli heads when they are firm, compact, and 4 to 8 inches in diameter. Determine the maximum size by watching the floret development. Broccoli heads are composed of many individual flowers called florets. The head is as large as it will be when the individual groups of florets begin to loosen, emerge from the surface of the head, and are not tightly clustered. Cut the stalk below the head, leaving 8 to 10 inches of stem and attached leaves. Chill the heads immediately.

Brussels sprouts: Harvesting usually begins 3 to 3½ months after transplanting. Early sprouts should be picked several times, taking the lowest on the plant each time; otherwise, they will open and become yellow. The first harvest should occur before the lower leaves begin to turn yellow; otherwise, the sprouts will toughen and lose their delicate flavor.

When picking Brussels sprouts, break off the leaf below the sprout and then remove the sprout by breaking it from the stalk. As the lower leaves and sprouts are removed, the plant continues to push out new leaves at the top, and new buds, or sprouts, are formed. Remove all lower sprouts, even those that do not make solid little heads.

Cabbage: Cabbage is mature and as large as it will get when the head becomes solid and the sides or top cannot be pressed in with the thumb. Mature heads often split open.

To delay the harvest of mature cabbage yet prevent this splitting, twist the entire plant slightly to break several roots. The breakage will reduce the uptake of water from the soil and delay splitting.

Cauliflower: Harvest cauliflower heads when they are firm, compact, and 4 to 8 inches in diameter. Like broccoli, the heads are as large as they will get when the individual groups of florets begin to loosen and emerge from the head. To harvest cauliflower, cut the stalk just below the head.

The yellowish color of the cauliflower surface is caused by exposure to sunlight. To prevent discoloration, when the small bud head appears in the center of the plant, draw the lower leaves of the plant loosely over the bud in a tent-like fashion. Tie the leaves together with a string or rubber band.

The leaves of cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts also can be harvested and eaten as greens.

Carrot: There are many varieties of carrots with different potential sizes and lengths. Most mature fully within 60 to 85 days but can be harvested earlier.

The crown size can indicate maturity. The crown, where the foliage attaches to the root, is usually at least 3/4 inch in diameter when the carrot is mature. Another test for maturity is to pull the largest carrot and examine the bottom or growing tip. If the tip is orange, the carrot is mature. If the tip is white, the carrot is still growing.

There is no need to harvest the carrot crop all at once. Carrots can be left in the ground for several weeks after they mature. In fact, the best place in Texas to store carrots is in cool garden soil.

Cucumber: Harvest cucumbers when they are bright, firm, and green but before they get too large. About 1 to 2 inches in diameter is right, with the smaller size best for pickling.

Discard all nubbins (small, undeveloped cucumbers), and poorly shaped or light-colored fruits. If possible, do not store cucumbers in the refrigerator for more than 2 days. It is best to pickle cucumbers the same day they are picked.

Greens: Harvest greens while the leaves are young and tender and before they start turning yellow or brown. Slight bronze tints are normal on mustard greens. Avoid wilted or flaccid leaves. Wash and chill them immediately.

Peppers: Harvest peppers when they are 4 to 5 inches long and have full, well-formed lobes. Immature peppers are pale, soft, pliable, and thin fleshed. Wash and chill the peppers immediately.

Spinach: Harvest spinach when six or more crisp, dark green leaves have formed. Wash them gently and chill immediately. Cut the leaves from the plant to encourage re-sprouting.

Squash: Harvest yellow crookneck squash when it is 4 to 6 inches long; harvest yellow straight-neck squash when it is 6 to 9 inches long; and harvest white scallop squash when it is 3 to 4 inches in diameter. A glossy color indicates tenderness.

Wash, dry, and store squash in a warm area of the refrigerator. Like cucumbers, squash are susceptible to chilling injury and should not be stored for more than 2 days.

Tomato: Harvest tomatoes at the pink stage, and ripen them in a warm area of the house. Harvesting at this time will not affect flavor, and it may prevent damage by insects and birds.

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