Nothing “Beets” Fall Planting
By Michael Stanley
While we are enduring the hot temperatures of summer, many folks shift their focus from gardening to cooler pastimes. One of the great advantages of living in Eastern NC, besides all the summertime activities that come along with our beautiful beaches and waterways, is the extended growing season. Gardening can be a very fun and rewarding experience. Who doesn’t love fresh vegetables right out of the garden? The freshest vegetables are the healthiest vegetables, and the best way to insure you have the freshest vegetables is to grow them yourself. Cool season vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are well suited for fall gardening. As these vegetables mature in cooler temperatures, you will get improved flavor and a longer production period.
August and September are the two main planting months for the fall garden. However, a lot of folks have success with a late crop of tomatoes, peppers, and field peas planted in mid-July. The fall garden will be made up of cool season veggies such as beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, collards, garden peas, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onions, radish, rutabagas, spinach, and turnips.
To get started, first you must prepare the soil. Remove whatever is left of the spring garden and roto-till to a depth of 6-8 inches. This should be done 10 to 14 days
prior to planting. Before planting, incorporate a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10. A quick soil test will indicate whether lime or sulfur should be added to your soil to adjust soil pH. Proper pH levels in your soil will insure nutrients are available for the plants to use. A soil test can be done at your local garden center or through the NC State Cooperative Extension Service. Adding a layer of mulch 2-4 inches deep can help conserve moisture and control weeds.
There are both conventional and organic methods to control pests in the garden. Consult your local garden center for the solutions best suited for your situation.
On the ornamental side of the garden, mums and pansies will give a splash of color that will brighten our doorsteps as we head into the cool crisp days of autumn. Garden mums will give 2-3 weeks of color while pansies, when planted in October, will bloom all the way into May. Now that’s what I call flower power!
Trees and shrubs planted in the fall generally establish quicker than those planted in the spring and summer. Because the temperatures are getting cooler and we usually have more rainfall later in the year, plants aren’t stressed quite as much. During the cooler months of fall and winter, more of the plants energy goes to root growth allowing for the plant to establish quicker.
So as you are enjoying all the summertime activities the crystal coast has to offer, don’t forget to garden!