Fall Garden and What I've Learned This Year

My fall garden is a bust.

This is the first year I've planted a fall garden. It's always been so hot when it was time to plant that the date would sail right past me. Who wanted to be out in the heat, pulling weeds, preparing seed beds, and sweating?

I planted late this spring for several reasons. The lettuce, onions, and beets I planted in the late spring did well, but I was too late to plant the cabbage, broccoli, peas and more that I wanted to grow.

So I planned a fall garden. I planted turnips, spinach, more beets, more lettuce and planned to add more to it. The weather was hot and humid with temperatures in the high 90's and low 100's. Evidently it was too hot for those cool-weather seeds to germinate, because they didn't.

The lettuce sprouted and is growing pretty well. Like in the spring, I planted the seeds in a tub near the orchard so that they are in partial shade, which kept the temperature down. The tub already contained the cayenne pepper plant and a dark opal basil plant, which further shaded the seedlings. I grew onions in this particular tub in the spring.

I have one lonely little spinach plant in the tub where I grew spring lettuce.

I've come to the conclusion that growing in containers is easier than growing in the ground, at least where I live. I've amended the garden but evidently not enough; the containers are filled with rich black dirt, compost from the bedding we cleaned out of the goat shed several years ago, but I'd need a lot more than I have to spread on the garden. Plus there's the difference in weeds: there are fewer weeds in containers and they are much easier to pull. My garden is covered in bermuda grass that would be beautiful if it were in my pasture.

But in order to grow enough to fill our needs, I'd need a whole lot of containers!

Spring lettuce and onions

I learned that one tub of lettuce isn't enough. The bed of beets I planted in the spring provided three side dishes plus some beet greens. I need to plant a lot more than I did this year, not more varieties but more quantity. Maybe my answer is raised beds and containers.

Arkansas Traveler tomato plant

If I dig down into the ground along the fenceline and bury some corrugated tin panels about six inches down, would that help keep the bermuda runners from getting into the garden?

My tomato plants gave up in August; I've never had that happen before. I think I planted just about the right number of them, and if they'd continued to produce I'd be happy with the amount of tomatoes this year. The one and only Arkansas Traveler plant has some nearly-ready-to-change-color tomatoes on it finally, so I will have some fall tomatoes hopefully.

I planted Jepeto sweet peppers and red bell peppers. The sweet peppers are still producing like crazy, but the red bells aren't as productive as the variety I grew last year. My paprika pepper plant (just one) is finally putting on some fruit, and the little cayenne peppers are turning red. Next year I'll plant those in a sunnier place; they did better when the weather finally got hot so they might have been too cold in the current location.

My carrots and beans were eaten by grasshoppers. I need some screen covers for those plants - maybe for my entire garden!

I also learned that I'm planting my onion sets too deep. I thought I was planting pretty shallow, but next year I will let them peek out of the soil. I think my beets were planted too deep too, although I thought I barely covered the seeds with soil. I need to be more frugal with the soil.

Even though seed packets might say "plant in full sun," the sun is so hot here in central Oklahoma that some full sun plants do better with a little shade. I'm still experimenting with which ones need to go where. I have basil plants in both places for instance, and the two plants in afternoon shade are much fuller and have bigger leaves.

Monster-sized basil leaves

In spite of the fact that I didn't grow as much as I wanted to and tried to grow this year, I've learned a great deal so it wasn't wasted effort. I'm not very good at keeping detailed notes, but I do write down things I've learned in retrospect.

How about you? Do you keep detailed notes as the season goes by?

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