• 46°

Planning for fall

Believe it or not, it’s about time to start planning for fall. The rain this summer can be very beneficial to a garden or it can wreak havoc with weed control.

As the vegetable garden starts to peter out, pull up all the plants that have been harvested. It prevents a buildup of insects and diseases. Put it in the burn pile or a bag to be picked up.

Cucumbers and squash are resistant to downy mildew should be planted before Aug. 31. For other vegetables you should calculate the planting dates by subtracting from the average first frost date for our area, which is Nov. 5, the days to maturity and adding 18 days or so for harvest. For example if the days to maturity are 55, add 18 and subtract 73 days from November 5th. You should plant around Aug. 24.

Cool season plants such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale and onions can be started in half shaded areas outside for setting out in September. Prepare the garden soil by incorporating fertilizer and reducing weed pressure.

The fall rains will help settle the soil and make it easier to germinate. If watering is necessary to get a stand, apply water in the furrow and then cover. Use a starter fertilizer for transplants. If it’s a water-soluble liquid fertilizer, cut the rate in half according to Bob Westerfield, the University of Georgia horticulturist at Griffin.

Mulch your plants as well to reduce fall weed germination. It’s also a good time to add material to the compost pile. Clean up all the edges and weeds around the garden before they go to seed. The first step in controlling weeds is to reduce the seed population in the soil. Preventing weeds from going to seed does that.

Soil sampling is another task that is essential for having a successful garden. How do you know how much fertilizer is needed? Soil sampling will tell you. The limiting factor is usually the pH of the soil, which measures the acidity or alkalinity of the soil.

If the soil is either too acidic or alkaline, the fertilizer will not be available to the plants. Adding limestone raises the pH. Dolomitic limestone should always be used because it provides both calcium and magnesium.

By applying limestone in the fall, it allows it be activated for spring crops. It takes about six months to activate. The cost of a soil test is $9. Soil test bags are available at the Troup County Extension Office.

If you not planting a cool season garden, planting a cover crop is a good option. Planting a winter annual legume such as crimson clover or an arrowleaf clover will add nitrogen to the soil, improve organic matter and help suppress winter annuals. Adding Abruzzi rye will also help with soil organic matter and it also has an allopathic effect on suppressing weeds.

Over seeding a garden is easy. You can lightly till the soil or spray a herbicide to suppress weeds. Broadcast the cover crop seed and lightly rake the seed in. This helps to provide good seed to soil contact.

Controlling winter annual weeds in warm season grasses by applying pre-emergence herbicides should be done between Sept. 1 and Sept. 15. Warm season grasses are centipede grass, St. Augustine, zoysia grass and bermuda grass. Many of these herbicides have specific directions that must be followed.

Do not use any that contain nitrogen fertilizers, the “weed and feed” variety. Those are designed for cool season grasses such a tall fescue. Using a nitrogen fertilizer in the fall may promote disease as well as winter kill. Nitrogen stimulate new growth which makes it susceptible to disease and cold.

Prune summer flowering plants and shrubs. Prune all the dead wood and branches that rub against each other. Email the office for specific pruning techniques. UGA has excellent bulletins on pruning.

What’s going on in Extension?

4Beekeepers Meeting: Monday, Aug. 17 at the Extension Office at 7 p.m.

4TCCA Meeting: Tuesday, Sept. 18. Topic:  USDA Programs, Rory Richardson is the guest speaker. Dinner is at 7 p.m. and costs $6. Call ahead. The program begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Ag Center.

4Market on Main: Every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. just off the square. Come by and enjoy the pick of the day.

If you have any questions or concerns, stop by or call the office. The Troup County Extension office is located at 144 Sam Walker Drive, LaGrange, GA. 30240 (706) 883-1675. Monday – Friday/8 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.