Plant Now For Fall Harvest!

We still have lots of container gardening, watering, mulching and bug fighting to do this summer but gardeners always have and need to think ahead to work with nature and the seasons. It is time to start thinking about fall gardening. It is still early for fall mums and too hot for fall pansies but now is the time to plant most fall vegetables. Oklahoma gardeners often get some of their best vegetable harvests off the fall garden. We are sowing seeds, planting and watering in the heat but the plants are maturing, flowering, pollinating and producing harvest in the cooler days and nights of autumn. To enjoy those late September, October and November harvests you have to plant now. Plant seeds of beans, beets, carrots, corn and peas to enjoy a fall harvest during the heart of the football season. Visit your local garden center and buy young plants of squash, tomatoes, peppers, cucumber and onion plants or sets. Many of the cool season brassica and leafy vegetables can be started from seeds or plants and will keep producing even past the early frosts until we get a really hard freeze. With the use of cold frames or heavier row covers some folks can produce fresh greens all winter, if we have a mild or moderate winter. These leafy greens and brassica include an ever expanding variety of spinach, kale, cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Swiss chard, cauliflower and a smorgasboard of lettuce varieties. You can plant many of the root crops like beets, radish, leek, parsnip and carrots and most of the leafy crops all the way into October and still enjoy a harvest this year. Warm season, frost tender, crops like tomatoes, peppers, corn and cucumbers need to be planted at once in order to get a reasonable harvest before our first freeze in early November. The first hard freeze will usually kill all the warm season vegetables like tomatoes, squash, corn and peppers unless you provide extra protection for those crops. The cool season crops like kale, lettuce, peas, cabbage, carrot and cauliflower will keep growing and producing until the more brutal and extended parts of winter arrive.

Many of your existing vegetables will get a new lease on life and a “second wind” or fresh burst of energy as the night temperatures start to drop, the days get shorter and the intensity and duration of daytime heating or temperatures moderate. This summer has not been as brutal as the recent drought years and we have been blessed with some cooling and refreshing summer rains so more of our spring vegetables may have survived the summer heat and be ready for a fall rebound to add to our new fall garden plantings we make this weekend and over the next few weeks. Although we are planting for fall results, it is still summer and so we will need to water and mulch these new plantings like it is summer to help them get established and off to a good start. Even though we don’t know the date, there will be a definite end to the growing season when the hard freeze overwhelms the “anti-freeze” level of each crop. Some crops will be overcome at 32 degrees freezing, others at 25 degrees and some crops at 20 degrees or even lower. As the temperatures cool the pollen will remain viable longer on crops like tomatoes and peppers and this will greatly improve the pollination rate which helps result in more and bigger peppers and tomatoes as we move into fall and shorter days.
Vegetables are not the only plants that will get a “second wind” in the garden the next few weeks as many of our color plants like begonia, geraniums, impatiens, petunias and many others that survived the summer will produce new growth and a wave of fresh more intensely colored flowers as we cool down heading towards fall. There is so much beauty in our yards, in our parks and at our public gardens like the zoo and Myriad Gardens. Please get outside and enjoy, contemplate and celebrate the joys and wonders of nature in your own yard and across our great state.

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