By Randall Mallette
With the summer heat bearing down on us, it is time to look ahead to fall for several reasons. Fall brings cooler temperatures and holidays, but with fall comes your fall garden. Now is the time to start preparing for your fall gardens, preferably in the early morning or evening when the temperature is cooler. Many of our fall plants can go in the ground from now through August for a pre-frost harvest, and some may even be in the ground already.
One of the first things to take into consideration for your fall garden is placement. What do you plan to grow? Different plants have different light requirements so take time to watch the shading patterns of the area throughout the day. Also pay attention to how well the area drains. Gardens and standing water do not mix. Standing water doesn’t allow the roots of plants to exchange oxygen, effectively suffocating the plant. Planting on hipped up rows is a good way to avoid drainage issues.
Another important step towards a productive fall garden is to have a soil test done. Sampling the soil will tell you what the garden area needs in terms of pH and nutrient management. The soil test results are very helpful. The most important information on it is the pH and the NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) needs. Once you know this information, you can make the necessary additions to the soil. It is a good idea to apply the recommended fertilizers, lime, etc… prior to tilling so that it is mechanically incorporated into the soil. This speeds up the process a lot, but remember that soil amendments do not work overnight. Amending the soil is a complex chemical reaction that takes time, so be sure to apply them well ahead of time.
Having a productive garden is a lot of work. But, with some early planning and preparation, you can get off to a great start with your fall garden. Proper site selection and soil preparation are two of the most important steps you can take to ensure an attractive and productive fall garden.
For more information contact Randall Mallette, County Agent, at the local LSU AgCenter Extension Office 318-357-2224. You can also visit us on the web at http://www.lsuagcenter.com or at 624 Second St, Natchitoches.