As we leave summer and enter the fall season, beginner and expert gardeners alike are planning their fall vegetable gardens. Whether you are growing vegetables in a pot in your apartment or refreshing your backyard garden, it is important to know that a fall vegetable garden needs to be managed differently than a spring garden.
The good news is that a well-prepared garden can ensure a bountiful harvest when the time comes.
Sunlight for fall vegetables
One of the most important things for a vegetable garden is learning how much sunlight your plants need. Vegetable gardens should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight, unobstructed by shadows from taller objects nearby.
Crops and plants grown for their roots and fruits should be planted in areas that receive the most sunlight. If you have to plant something a little more into the shade, do it with your leafy greens, which can tolerate a little less sunlight.
Healthy soil for a healthy garden
Soil quality is another important factor when planning for a strong vegetable garden.
By the time you put your first plant in the ground, you’re already 75% of the way toward success or failure. At that point, you’ve either prepared a good-quality soil for your plants or you haven’t.
If you are unsure about the quality or health of your soil, then you may consider getting a soil test. Soil testing helps you understand the precise composition of your soil. Texans who wish to know more about their soil composition can order a soil test from AgriLife Extension.
Adding fertilizer is the next step. You have two options:
- Apply 1 pound of ammonium sulfate (21- 0-0) per 100 square feet (10 feet by 10 feet) before planting. Then sprinkle 1 tablespoon of ammonium sulfate around each plant every 3 weeks and water it in.
- Or, apply 2 to 3 pounds of a slow-release fertilizer (19-5-9, 21-7-14, or 25-5-10) per 100 square feet of garden area. Apply 1 tablespoon of ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) around each plant every 3 weeks and water it in. This second method should produce a more abundant harvest, especially with hybrid tomatoes and peppers.
Do not add too much ammonium sulfate, and do not put it too close to the plants. It can seriously damage them.
When to plant vegetables for fall
Fall gardeners can set the stage for a bountiful harvest by selecting the best vegetable varieties for their regions and planting them at the right time.
In Texas, our fall season can be short between the blazing heat of summer and first frost of winter. So, we want things that harvest quickly, and you want to select crops that are well-adapted to your area.
Knowing just when to plant vegetables, according to region, is important.
The trick to establishing healthy transplants during late summer is to make sure they have plenty of water. Transplants in peat pots or cell packs with restricted root zones require at least 2 weeks for their root systems to enlarge enough to support active plant growth. Until that time, they may need to be watered every day or the plants will be stunted or even die.
Buy the largest transplants possible. Even though larger transplants cost more, their root systems will spread faster, and the plants will produce more fruit sooner.
Plant shade-tolerant crops between taller growing vegetables such as tomatoes. Planting at the proper time is probably the most important factor in successful fall gardening. Table 1 lists average planting dates for each region.
Tips for a successful fall harvest
- Plan for adequate sunlight.
- Give roots and fruits the most sun.
- Use leafy greens in sun or in slightly shadier garden areas.
- Amend your soil with compost.
- Choose regionally adapted plants.
- Visit your county AgriLife Extension office for more help.
- Check out the online Fall Vegetable Gardening Guide.
Practical tips on legal issues available through AgriLife course
Many state and federal laws regarding land ownership can be complicated, but a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service course helps make the content more accessible to landowners.
Owning Your Piece of Texas: Key Laws Texas Landowners Need to Know is an online course and handbook that covers key laws that may affect rural landowners and agricultural operations.
The online course combines practical tips and examples to help better explain important legal concepts that are included in the handbook authored by Lashmet. Topics include landowner liability, special use tax valuation, water law, fence law, eminent domain, agricultural leases, renewable energy leases, the Texas Right-to-Farm statue and more.
“Whether you have owned land for generations or are looking to purchase your first acre, this course is designed to provide practical and helpful information to make your experience in land ownership more enjoyable,” said Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, AgriLife Extension agricultural law specialist in Amarillo.
The self-paced course takes about 8.5 hours to complete.
The online course is available on AgriLife Learn. Participants can decide to take the entire course for a total cost of $150 or pay $20 for individual, shorter courses.
AgriLife Extension noted those who register online will have access to the program for two years.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the course was taught at various locations across the state each year. The in-person workshops are expected to resume this year. Those interested in finding a future in-person or online event to attend can visit Lashmet’s Upcoming Presentations webpage.
The handbook can be downloaded as a PDF, and a hard copy can be purchased by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on landowner resources and information, visit Texas Farm Bureau’s Farm and Ranch Resources webpage.