I have a confession to make.
I planted one obligatory tomato this year in my garden and then promptly forgot about it. Tomatoes are to a Southern garden like sweet tea is to a front porch, but in the summer I’ve found I’d rather sit on the front porch and watch my garden bloom, enjoying the work I’ve put in the spring. Not that I abandon it altogether, but my zest for gardening wanes in the summer months when Georgia is often miserably hot and humid, and gardening time is taken over by weekend excursions and trips to the pool with the kiddos.
Fall is a wonderful time for gardening in Georgia, but the preparation begins now, in late summer. In the South, we are blessed with a long growing season. Lettuces, spinach, carrots carry the season through winter and into the spring. These gardens are perfect for small spaces and containers, and insects and diseases are less of a challenge in fall, making fall gardens ideal for beginning gardeners.
Get started by preparing the ground. Remove finished summer crops, add 2-3 inches of compost if needed, and don’t forget to add back fertility taken by spring and summer crops. Recommendations are based on a soil sample are best for fine-tuning fertility, but more general recommendations are made in the chart from UGA Extension Circular 963, “Vegetable Gardening in Georgia.”
For some fall crops, like broccoli and kale, we are just outside the recommended planting time, so get them in the ground as soon as possible to ensure the maximum yield. Turnips, mustard, beets and carrots should be planted by mid-September. Get lettuces and cabbage in the ground before October, but radishes, spinach and garlic can be planted through the middle of next month.
Here are a couple of quick tips for success. Make sure your pH is at least over 6 before planting spinach. It will not grow with a low pH. Also, carrots can be tricky; they need good seed to soil contact and constant moisture to germinate. First, make sure you plant carrot seeds on a seedbed that consists of small particles; break up or remove large clumps. After planting, gently tamp seeds into the soil using a piece of board or other flat surface. Finally, when it is time to plant carrots, the weather is still hot and soil dries out quickly. Cover with a light mulch such as pine straw to keep the moisture in until seeds germinate.
For more information on recommended varieties and spacing, check out the vegetable chart as from the UGA Extension circular mentioned above, “Vegetable Gardening in Georgia.” (https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/C%20963_6.PDF).
Happy planting and enjoy the coming cool crisp weather with some cool crisp veggies.