Getting ready for cooler days in the garden
I always tell my friends from off, we have 4 seasons in the Lowcountry, Almost Summer, Summer, Still Summer and Christmas. Summer will end soon along with the daily thunder storms followed by the outdoor sauna we all enjoy. The temperatures of Still Summer are hot in the day but will drop a little at night. September and October can be some of our driest months. The only rain will be from hurricanes and tropical storms. The skies will be blue again and the humidity back down to a tolerable range. It’s a good time to start a fall vegetable garden. Go ahead and pull out the old tomato and squash plants. The peppers might last a little longer. It’s a good time to amend your soil with Charleston County Compost from the Bees Ferry Landfill. At $10 a ton it is a bargain. They also have it in bags if you do not have a truck. Or you can add other types of organics to the soil: worm castings, mushroom compost and cow manure are just a few things you can add. I like to add some calcium to the vegetable garden too. Calcium will prevent blossom end rot and make vegetables crispier and help them last longer in storage. Pelletized gypsum comes in a 40 pound bag. It is the mineral calcium sulfate. Gypsum will not change your PH like lime. How much gypsum do you need? I put about a 1/4 cup per vegetable plant and mix it in the surrounding soil. Young plants take up calcium better than old plants, so it is important to get it in the ground before you plant.
Still Summer (Fall) is a good time to plant greens, root crops and cole crops. These vegetables, planted in the fall, will be sweeter than when they are planted in the spring. Plants in the fall will store sugar for the winter making them tastier. Collards are the most popular cole crop in the South, but broccoli, kale and cabbage can also be grown. Carrots and radishes are popular root crops, but turnips are an old favorite. Root crops should be grown from seed but be careful not to plant too deep. Barely cover the seeds with soil and firm the soil down then water gently. There are many types of healthy greens that can be grown during the fall and winter. Just the different cultivars of kale are mind blowing. Blue scotch kale, redbor, Tuscan and Siberian are just a few. Some cultivars take the cold better and some can stand the heat better. Since our winters are unpredictable, plant some of each. I think kale is beautiful. I like to plant it in the flower beds in the winter along with pansies and violas. Other great greens you can plant are southern giant mustard, seven top turnips and upland cress.
Buy your seeds now while they are still in the stores. I sometimes buy seed in the spring when the selection is good and keep them cool and dry until fall planting time. Don’t plant them all at once save some seeds for early spring. If you are interested in heirloom or gourmet vegetables there are plenty of seeds available on the internet. Do shop around, I have found there is a wide range of prices out there.
Try Southern Giant Curled Mustard this fall in the garden. Easy to grow from seed this green has a tangy mustard flavor very different from collards. It can be harvested in about 50 days from seed.