Preparing for a Fall/Winter Vegetable Garden

Charles Brasher
Vegetable Extension Faculty-FAMU
Jackson County Extension

Fall is a great time for growing vegetables, especially greens and leafy ones. With the resurgence of interest in growing your own vegetables it's important to remember that first time gardeners and veteran gardeners alike should start with a plan. That means deciding what you and your family like to prepare and eat. Write down the names of the vegetables and allocate space for each, by what they grow in, rows or beds.

Scarecrow display at Epcot Center. Photo Credits: Tara Piasio, UF/IFAS photo database

If you are preparing raised beds for the first time, or in a new garden spot, take a soil sample and send it to a reputable lab. University labs such as those at the University of Florida, Auburn University or University of Georgia, have the expertise and internal quality controls to give recommendations on garden and other crops and lawns. Pull your samples soon and be able to apply any needed lime or fertilizers in a timely manner. Lime usually takes 2 to 3 months to dissolve and become available to the plants. Be sure to rotate root crops such as carrots and potatoes to new areas every third year to avoid nematode and fruit quality problems.

Practice field sanitation—remove all summer grown plants first. Clear a strip around the garden at least six feet wide so that thrips, whiteflies and aphids will not have instant or immediate access to your fresh, green vegetables. Weed control will help cut down on host plants for these insects.

Use resistant varieties of the cool season crops when available. Check with your local extension agent for a list of disease resistant hybrids that are offered to the homeowner. Mosaic viruses and spotted wilt viruses have no chemical cures presently. Some beans, snow peas and English peas are resistant to certain diseases, but will need to be monitored for fungi after leaves form. Use fungicide treated seed to help ensure a good stand. Some yellow squash crooknecks and straightnecks, such as Prelude and Multi-Pik, are resistant to mosaic viruses, but will still need insecticides to control the rindworms, cucumber beetles and others that may attack the stalks and young fruits.

Another crop that can be planted in the fall is Irish potatoes. Seed potatoes might have to be special ordered through your garden or farm supply store. Use fungicide treated seed pieces to avoid germination and early disease problems. Plant a small amount in a short row or two and prepare to cover the plants if early frost or freeze occurs. Potatoes can be harvested within 85 to 100 days of planting, even earlier for a “new” crop. Insects are still considered to be a problem on potatoes, so monitor for potato weevils and others such as flea beetles and tuberworms. Rotate to areas in the garden that have not had potatoes or sweet potatoes in three years or more.

For further information, contact your Master Gardener Desk or the local Extension Office.