Okay, so the growing season is winding down. The corn is done; I’ve pulled up all the stalks and given them to the goats, who devoured them like “kids” eating sugarcane. The bush beans are looking straggly and even the squash has played out. The only thing that seems to be thriving is the okra. I have put up all the okra I can, even putting small pods in the leftover juice from jars of jalapeño slices (yummy). I’m giving lots of it away now. Now is the time to replace summer vegetables with plants that like the cooler fall temperatures and enrich the soil in preparation for next spring.
The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Agency has a nice planting chart (http://www.webgrower.com/regional/pdf/GA_vegplantchart_cir963.pdf) that is specifically for Georgia, but the wonderful Web has many resources for other growing zones. In general, cruciferous plants such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, turnips, and mustard greens thrive in the fall. The bonus is that cruciferous vegetables are good for you since they have phytochemicals proven to inhibit cancer by preventing toxins in our environment from damaging our cells as well as suppressing genetic defects that have to potential to cause cancer as we age. Potatoes, onions, and asparagus should also be planted in the winter.
Another task to take care of now is to revitalize areas not used for fall crops. I will sprinkle these areas with worm castings and work the castings into the soil with a hoe. Hoeing is the preferable method since it will not go deep enough to disturb the hard-working worms down below. It is best to rotate fall planting areas so the entire garden has some time to be fallow and receive fertilizer in preparation for the following year. I have also found it easier to keep the garden weeded throughout the winter rather than fighting a jungle in the spring. Weeds do not grow much over the winter, so as long as I pull up the weeds and hoe every few weeks, I can stay ahead of the game.
Especially in the South, a garden will produce year-round if managed properly. There is nothing like the feeling of always being able to go out to the garden to pick something to prepare for supper. In fact, it helps answer the age-old question: What’s for supper??