Gardening Choices for Fall

by Elmer Krehbiel, Master Gardener
November 1, 2002

There are many choices for gardeners in this area, although the temperature, moisture or the lack thereof, wind, and soil may be a challenge.

The color of flowers and flavor of vegetable is better from fall crops because of cooler temperatures during maturity, as compared to those during the summer. That is the reason that summer flowers in the North are so colorful.

November should be a suitable time to plant many flowers like: spring-flowering bulbs, clematis, honeysuckle, Dutch iris, larkspur, lily of the valley, petunia, phlox, pinks, salvia, scabiosa, sweet peas, trumpet creeper, sweet William, wisteria, and more.

This month should be suitable to start a late crop by sowing carrot, Swiss chard, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, English pea, radish, spinach, and turnip seeds.

Also, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and American cabbage plants could be transplanted.

The harvesting of cucumbers, green beans, sweet peppers and squash from our fall crops started about a month ago. Earlier this week, we started picking sweet corn. Our six fall-tomato plants are loaded with green fruit.

Those crops were planted late: August 24. It was rather hot and dry to start them earlier. Since it seemed so late, I measured the rows, counted and soaked the seeds for one day. The planting dates for most crops can vary up to a month or two.

Tomatoes that are at least one-half of mature size will be picked, and stored in shallow-cardboard boxes before a freeze. They will be placed individually only one layer deep, and stacked in the garage to ripen. Each week, the ripe ones should go to the kitchen, and the spoiled ones to the compost. In the past, some that were stored during November became ripe as late as March. A more natural method is to dig up the plants, and hang them upside down; but the roots are dirty and the leaves drop later.

Since we moved into this area during August of 1972, we consider this a great fall gardening area for many crops. It sure does beat a possible snow-bank from September to April. Then June, July or August is available for some trips to the North.

My brother lives about 400 miles north of here, so they planted several acres of sweet corn, July 10; and have been selling fresh sweet-corn ears since the first week of October. When we visited them two weeks ago, we had fresh sweet corn for several meals; and brought some home in our ice chest.

Gardening Choices for Summer Crops

Some gardeners think that spring-summer flower and vegetable crops are the best kind for their family. Traditionally, the old plants should be removed and composted and the soil tilled before the Holiday Season. That should reduce some insects and allow the soil to settle before early planting. Then November and December are available for other projects.

The gardener that grew the worlds largest tomato (7 lbs, 12 oz) prepared the planting site during the fall.

The master gardener committee decided to plant Elbon rye and Austrian winter peas during September in the Extension Demonstration Garden. This method should reduce nematodes, increase the organic matter, and increase the fertility. Then November and December are available for some other projects. The cover crop will need to be tilled into the soil several weeks before planting time.

Dr. Elmer Krehbiel is the former President of Keep Brazos Beautiful. See his column in The Eagle.