Thomas J. Koske | 4/19/2005 10:28:27 PM
There’s a different garden strategy for each of the four seasons. In the fall, we go from too hot to too cold, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske.
Within the limits of heat and frost, timing becomes critical. Koske explains that some fall crops have to start before August because they need either to get some size before frost (like tomatoes and bell pepper), or they require a long growing period (like pumpkins and watermelons.) Many cold-sensitive crops slow down with cool nights, which make their fruiting a lot different than in late spring or early summer.
As we move into fall, we also find shorter days and cooler nights. This leads to less production from the warm-loving crops. The heat of late summer often causes poor pollination and, thus, delayed fruit set.
Fall also is drier, unless there are hurricane rains. It is still hot and usually dry in August and September, so we need to pay attention to the soil moisture status.
"Water as needed for the season, because the fall growing season is short enough, and we can’t afford to lose good growth to low moisture," Koske warns.
The fact that fall marks the end of the growing season means that insect populations have been growing all along, too. Many populations reach their seasonal peak before frost. Caterpillars give us fits with corn and leafy crops at this time. Extra pest control and special vigilance are usually necessary in the fall.
Soil fertility needs to be evaluated. Koske recommends following a crop’s planting site with a different type of plant material so that common soil pests will be kept suppressed. This is called crop rotation.
If a heavy feeder is followed by a light feeder like peas or beans, there may be some residual fertility to carry these legumes. If a light feeder is overfed, however, you may get all bush and little or no fruit. If a heavy feeder follows a light feeding crop, you will need a preplant application of fertilizer.
Since timing is so important with the fall crop, choose crops that will produce well within this short window of time. Koske advises to look for fast-maturing or bush-type cultivars to ensure a good yield.
Some forethought and strategy applied to the fall vegetable garden will give you a better chance for success in this challenging season, the LSU AgCenter horticulturist says.
For related topics, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com Additional yard and garden topics are available from an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.