Planning a successful fall garden
Some of the best quality garden vegetables are produced and harvested during the fall season when warm, sunny days are followed by cool, humid nights.
However, there are also problems with getting a fall garden started according to Patrick Byers, a horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
"August brings with it high soil temperatures, high light intensity and rapid soil drying. These factors present real problems with getting a uniform stand of plants," said Byers.
In August, the surface of the soil, when exposed to the summer sun, can become very warm and dry out quickly.
"The weather combined with the fact that vegetable seeds should not be planted any deeper than three times the diameter of the seed, makes planting depth and protection for the seed crucial," said Byers.
Byers recommends applying a light layer of mulch over the row of newly planted seeds to retain moisture. Gardeners can also try screen wire strips, shade cloth, or boards to cover the row from intense heat.
"This will moderate both soil temperature and soil moisture but you need to remember to remove coverings after seedling emerges," said Byers.
Byers also offers these quick suggestions that may increase the success rate of fall gardening:
--Seeds left from the spring, if they have been stored in a cool, dry place should be good for planting. Seeds that are stored in the freezer properly should remain viable for several years. Soak seeds overnight before planting (except beans and peas). This will hasten germination and seeding emergence when soil drying is most critical to plant growth.
--Short-season warm vegetables like beans can still be planted for a fall harvest. Cool-season veggies like beets, turnips, lettuce, spinach, and radish can be direct seeded.
--The average first frost date for the fall in the Springfield area is Oct. 17. Check your seed packet for the days to harvest and count back form the frost date to determine the best time to plant.
Supplement rain fall with trickle irrigation to get early established growth. Soaker hoses are good sources. Cover seeded rows with mulch to reduce soil temperature and drying.