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By Roger Boyd
We all are always anxious for spring to arrive so that we can get out of the house, chase the winter blues, and enjoy the warm spring sunshine and planting things. However, the early spring fever all too often fades with the greater heat and humidity of summer, and the massive increase in bugs and weeds that bother us and our plants. These bothersome hindrances to gardening, however, can easily be avoided by planting a fall garden.
Very few folks are aware that in southern Illinois Fall is actually the best time of the year for gardening. Many favorite, easy- to-grow vegetables such as lettuce, green beans, peas, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard and cucumbers are best when grown in the cooler fall air. In addition, fresh broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips and Brussels sprouts are also wonderful additions to any family dinner and are best when grown in the fall. Brussels sprouts taste even better when harvested after a late October frost.
As an added plus, many of the most damaging insects, plant diseases and pesky weeds that can easily overwhelm any garden are generally done for the year, and who doesn’t enjoy being outside on a wonderful fall day?!
The only tools a beginning gardener needs are a good shovel, a hoe and steel-toothed garden rake. If you have not previously purchased these necessary tools for other projects around your home and are a bit hesitant to invest in something you may not enjoy, a family member or neighbor can usually be found who will let you borrow their garden tools for a few days. Or, perhaps you can partner with them and get some gardening assistance and pointers while turning them on to the joys of fall gardening.
Although many stores these days “pull” all the seeds from their spring displays, with a little bit of searching most varieties of vegetable seeds are still available and quite often at a fraction of their original cost. It is always very important to carefully read the information on the seed packets to be sure the plants will reach maturity by the first expected frost date—generally around October 25th in St. Clair County. All of the vegetables I listed earlier will have ample time to reach full growth if planted by mid- August – spinach, lettuce and radishes can be planted as late as the 2nd week of September!
For you beginning gardeners, you don’t need to overdo. A garden plot as small as 4 feet x 4 feet can grow a large supply of “salad” veggies that will taste better than anything you can buy at your local grocers.
Always remember that even though gardening provides plenty of fresh air, exercise, and wonderful eating for the family, IT MUST BE FUN! If your gardening project is fun you will stick with it and be amply rewarded for all your efforts. So, no matter what size fall garden you intend to plant, and what vegetables you choose to grow, you will be providing the best in healthy eating for you and your family. At the same time you will be getting some wonderful outdoor exercise in the fresh fall air and an increased sense of self-worth and self-sufficiency for a job well done.
Here is a list in alphabetical order of days to harvest from planting date for vegetables that can do well in a southern Illinois Fall garden:
1) Green Beans 45-60 days
2) Broccoli 60-80 days
3) Brussels Sprouts 70-80 days
4) Cabbage 70-80 days
5) Cauliflower 70-80 days
6) Cucumbers 50-70 days
7) Lettuce (all varieties) 35-50 days
8) Peas 50-65 days
9) Radishes 25-35 days
10) Spinach 40-50 days
11) Swiss Chard 45-55 days
12) Turnips 40-60 days
Contact me with questions! firstname.lastname@example.org
As you can see, many of these veggies could be ready by late September or early October and several of them (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, turnips and Swiss chard) do well even after the first light frost. This can provide you and your family fresh produce all the way into November and frequently beyond.
Please email email@example.com any questions you may have, and if you provide your phone number, I’ll give you a call as well as providing a written response.
I have just finished harvesting most of my early garden and am beginning to put in my own Fall garden so I will try and post every 3-4 days to let you know how I am progressing as I “Get Up and Fall Garden” in my favorite gardening time of the year.
Gardening Indoors 2013-07-15 Published 2013-07-15
Healthy Eating Habits 2012-05-07 Published 2012-05-07