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Fall gardens are planted in the heat of summer

Fall gardens are planted in the heat of summer


Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Media Contact:
Trisha Gedon | Sr. Communications Specialist | 405-744-3625 | trisha.gedon@okstate.edu

For many gardeners, the summer months are the busiest of the growing season. There’s
nothing quite like the taste of fresh-picked fruits and vegetables. Fortunately, harvesting
garden-fresh produce can continue well into the fall.

While still enjoying the bounty of the summer garden, gardeners should decide what
they want to plant and harvest in the fall garden before feeling the first chill in the air, said David Hillock, Oklahoma State University Extension consumer horticulturist.

“People who garden develop an appreciation and a desire for fresh, nutritious fruits
and vegetables,” Hillock said. “Some of the best quality garden vegetables in Oklahoma
are grown and harvested in the fall when warm, sunny days are followed by cool, humid

Like spring and summer gardening, characteristics of soil for a fall garden play a
large role in gardening success. Improving soil with organic material prior to and
during the gardening season is important.

Hillock said soil should absorb water readily and not form a crust when it dries out.
Soil should also drain sufficiently so it doesn’t become waterlogged and cause root

When planting, gardeners have a couple of choices on how to get started, including
direct-planting seeds or using transplants. Some crops are grown more easily when
seeds are started early and then transplanted into the garden.

Growing transplants under partial shade from the summer sun, along with insect protection,
is typically easier to accomplish than seeding directly into the garden, said Casey Hentges, host of OSU Agriculture’s television program “Oklahoma Gardening.”

“Gardeners who want to grow their own transplants will have a larger selection of
seeds to purchase as opposed to the availability of transplants at the nursery,” Hentges
said. “Seeds left over from the spring garden can be used in the fall garden as long as they were stored in a cool, dry location
or in a refrigerator or freezer.”

When choosing fall plants, gardeners need to remember some spring-planted selections
typically continue production into the fall, including tomato, okra, spinach, pepper,
sweet potato and cowpea. Good choices for fall gardening include broccoli, pole and
lima beans, cauliflower, cilantro, Chinese cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, leaf lettuce,
pumpkin, summer and winter squash, tomatillo and sweet corn.

Hentges cautions gardeners to be aware of the time it takes from planting seeds or
seedlings until they mature.

“Some plants, such as radishes, mature in as little as 20 days, but other vegetables
like broccoli and pumpkin can take 100 days or more before harvest,” she said. “Gardeners
need to make sure they have enough time between planting and harvest before winter
sets in.”

Obtaining a stand of plants can be tricky due to the climatic conditions during July
and August. High temperatures and high light intensity rapidly dries out the soil
and can cause issues in developing a uniform stand of plants.

Hillock said gardeners may need to apply special treatments such as mulch or shade
over rows, along with supplemental watering, to reduce soil temperature and aid in
seed germination.

“In order to germinate, viable seeds must have the proper temperature, adequate moisture
and sufficient oxygen,” he said. “Consider drip irrigation to make the watering process
easier and more efficient.”

Conditions that are favorable for seed germination also favor the growth of grass
and broadleaf weed plants. These take up valuable nutrients in the soil and use available
moisture, so gardeners need to mulch the soil or cultivate when the grass and weeds
are very small in an effort to get rid of them.

Additionally, insect pests may inhabit the garden and damage plants within a week.
Hillock suggests frequent checks and immediate protective measures be used. Hillock
said in order for the control to be effective, determine what type of pests are causing
damage. OSU Extension offers information on pest control in fact sheet EPP-7313.

“It’s so satisfying growing some of the foods you serve at home. Planting a fall garden
will enable families to enjoy those fresh flavors even longer,” Hillock said.

Check out OSU Extension’s gardening webpage for more gardening information.

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