Trunkline Magazine (Louisville Zoo) Trunkline Magazine: September 2016 | Page 18

GARDEN TALK Fall Gardening with Cold Weather Crops If you’ve enjoyed the success of having a spring and summer vegetable garden this year and thought the planting season was over — think again! Fall is a great time to plant cold crops. You’ve already done the work of prepping your garden beds for spring and summer, so why not capitalize on that effort with some nutritious veggies this autumn season? The most common question from many prospective fall gardeners is: “What can I grow?” Most garden greens like arugula, kale, collard greens, spinach, swiss chard and other more exotic greens like mache and radicchio thrive in the cool temperatures of autumnal gardens. There are a great variety of vegetable crops to work with including beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cilantro, garlic, leeks, onions, potatoes, radishes, scallions, shallots and turnips. That’s quite a list! Of course, the length of growing season will vary among these. So, when is the best time to start? Get on your gardening gloves, because the best time is now! Many fall garden plants get a helpful starting push from the last days of summer heat. To determine the appropriate growing season for fall plants, you’ll need to find out when you can expect the first killing frost in your region, which is temperatures of about 28 degrees. To find your average first fall frost date, search by state in the tables provided by the National Climatic Data Center. Count back 12 to 14 weeks from your average first fall frost date to start seeds for the crops. Most autumnal garden plants can be started from seed, but some fare better as transplants, particularly broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale. The peak of summer is not the best time to start seedlings of anything, so start these from seed indoors where germination conditions are more favorable and then expose them to sunlight a couple of hours each day before transplanting when they’re about three weeks old. As your spring-planted crops die off, replace them with summersown vegetables to keep your garden productive into fall and even winter! If you have time, enrich the soil with compost or aged manure such as ZooPoopyDoo, to replenish micronutrients and give the plants a strong start. One of the most important factors affecting the success and productivity of fall gardens is keeping the soil moist. Short periods of drought stress can No time for a Fall Garden? Consider planting a cover crop for the winter. A cover crop is a specific plant grown for the protection and enrichment of the soil. Examples include winter rye, winter wheat, red clover and hairy vetch. Cover crops will add nutrients to the soil and reduce fertilizing time, enhancing soil health, preventing erosion and improving your yields! When spring arrives, till in the cover crops a couple weeks prior to planting and start your garden in richer soil! If you don’t plant cover crops, be sure to add organic matter like ZooPoopyDoo in the spring before planting. ZooPoopyDoo will be available for purchase in April 2017. See you then! 18 • Louisville Zoo Trunkline • Fall 2016 significantly affect the growth of fall crops, especially for slow-growing root crops like beets and carrots. Some simple solutions include: • Install soaker hoses before you set out plants or sow seeds. • Install shade cloth(s) above the bed with stakes or hoops to prevent excessive soil drying. • Mulching with fresh grass clippings or composted leaves to retain soil moisture while also adding nutrients. A secret tool that many veteran gardeners utilize when mulching is to place newspaper down between plants and mulch on top. The newspaper will block light to prevent weed growth, keep the soil cool and moist, and attract earthworms as it breaks down. Earthworms help increase the amount of air and water that is absorbed into the soil. They break down organic matter into compounds that plants can use. What a great green way to make use of all those old newspapers too! Now that you know how, get out and enjoy those cool temperatures with some autumn gardening. Happy Harvest!