It's time to start your plans for an autumn vegetable garden. Gardening can be more enjoyable in the fall, when the weather is more pleasant than in the summer.
As with a summer garden, make sure you have a fairly sunny spot, but a partially shaded location will do fairly well for fall crops.
Work and fertilize your soil before planting. Add lime if the soil has not been limed in two or three years. A good rate is 3 to 5 pounds per 100 square feet. Mix the limestone thoroughly with the soil before planting.
Plant vegetables that appeal to family members. The three major groups of fall vegetables are the cole crops, the leafy vegetables and root crops. Cole crops include cabbage, collards, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. The leafy group includes turnip greens, mustard, kale, spinach and lettuce. Root crops include turnips, radishes, carrots and beets. Onions also can be planted in the fall.
After selecting the variety, make a plan on paper. Place tall plants on the north or west side of the garden so they won't shade low-growing vegetables.
Most of the vegetables I've mentioned should be planted from now through the first part of September. Some can be planted as late as the end of September or early October.
When planting fall vegetables, it is critical to have water available at all times. The first process in the growth of a seed is to take up water. Any stress or lack of water at this time will reduce the stand of plants. The secret is to apply it before seeding. Wet the area thoroughly before planting and let the soil dry out until you can work it.
A lot of us have trouble getting carrots to come up. First, select a good variety for our area, such as Chantenay. Prepare the soil as outlined above. Mix some dry sand with the seed and scatter the mixture on the soil. Instead of covering with soil, cover the seed 1/8 inch deep with manufactured potting soil.
Lettuce is another crop that gives many gardeners trouble. Scatter the seeds on the moist soil and don't cover them.
The worst insect pests in the fall garden are caterpillars and worms. As soon as plants come up, or immediately after transplanting, apply Thuricide or Dipel. Do this at 10-day intervals. The material in these products is 100 percent organic, and the sprayed vegetables will be safe for harvesting.
Sid Mullis is director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office for Richmond County. Call him at (706) 821-2349, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Richmond and Columbia county offices have a Web page at www.griffin.peachnet.edu/ga/columbia.