Make fall gardening fun, flavorful

Special to the Packet and the GazetteSeptember 1, 2013 

As the end of summer rolls around, we can replant most of our gardens for a late harvest of warm- and cool-season crops.

Peppers, squash, cucumbers and beans can be planted from early to late August. Cool-season vegetables can also be planted from the middle of August until September and October. Some of them will overwinter, such as kale and collards, and can be eaten through the winter months.

There are a lot of ways to garden, but many people in the Lowcountry have limited space and are opting for nontraditional methods such as container and vertical gardens. I saw a very neat way to grow a vertical garden at a Master Gardener Gardening School which used a recycled pallet, heavy landscape fabric and potting soil. To build this garden, first lay the pallet down and staple the landscape fabric to the sides and the bottom. Then turn the pallet over and fill the spaces between the boards with potting soil and seeds or transplants. Let the plants root for several weeks, watering regularly with compost tea or liquid fertilizer. Once the plants have established themselves, you can then prop the pallet against a south facing wall and pick away. This works very well with leafy greens and herbs, but can also be used to grow root vegetables.

Leafy greens are very good for us. Salads, stir-fry, soups, stews and chips are a few ways to get your greens. I had my first kale chips recently and I was very impressed with them. It's easy to enjoy the vegetables you grow. Sprinkle them with a little olive oil and salt then grill to perfection. The fresher the better

Do a soil test in the fall to make sure pH and fertility levels are in synch with the crops you wish to grow. Visit the Clemson University Home and Garden website to find information about the ideal time and conditions for certain vegetables, herbs and fruits. Most of these plants need six hours of sunlight. Herbs need full sun, well drained soils and low fertility levels. Beans and peas (legumes) do not need a lot of nitrogen because they can harvest atmospheric nitrogen and turn it into a usable form. Legumes are useful to plant ahead of crops that are heavy feeders and legumes work well in a larger vegetable gardens in a crop rotation.

Fight pests For pest problems, it's important to look at the underside of leaves often to detect insects and diseases early. Not sure what's eating your plants? Bring a sample to the Clemson Extension office for identification. Encourage natural pest control by having a shallow water bath, next boxes, cover and lots of flowers to attract birds and butterflies to your garden. Avoid using pesticides and get to know the good bugs from the bad bugs to help you keep a healthy balance in your garden. Even the bad bugs can be somebody's dinner.

Laura Lee Rose is a horticulturist for the Beaufort County Extension Service. Contact her at lrose@clemson.edu.

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