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Southwest Airlines Community

Tips for Success from the Southwest Community Garden

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If you can get past the heat of July and August, autumn gardening can be very rewarding. In the South, you are able to extend the outdoor garden production and enjoyment to a second growing season. We in the Southwest Headquarters (HDQ) Community garden are currently focusing our Fall gardening efforts to provide local food banks with a crop of fresh organic vegetables in time for Thanksgiving. Here are some of the things we’re doing that you may be able to adopt in your home and/or community gardens. Soil Preparation The end of Summer is a great time to add compost to the garden because many of the nutrients in the garden have been consumed by hungry Spring and Summer plants at this point. You can purchase many different commercial compost mixes or if you’ve been composting your kitchen scraps, leaves, and clippings, this will be a perfect time to cash in on your hard work. At this point remove any unwanted limbs, weeds, and dead plants from the garden. Check the health of your garden for diseases or trouble spots. Work the finished compost into your garden. Don’t add partially composted material as this will actually cost you valuable nitrogen as things decompose. Make any irrigation adjustments you may need and you should be ready for your crop selection. Selecting Seeds or Transplants Timing is everything for Fall gardening. Some of the variables to consider are a late stubborn Summer that won’t depart, a Winter that is looming, and of course the amount of total sunlight that is diminishing daily. It is usually more difficult this time of year to start seeds because of the hot dry weather. It can be helpful to soak larger seeds such as peas and beans overnight between two damp paper towels. Ideally planting seeds should be delayed until temperatures moderate such as after a cool front. Currently, temperatures in North Texas are still in the 90s so we’re leaning this year towards more transplants and less seeds to get our Fall garden started. We’re targeting plant varieties with a relatively shorter maturity cycle. You can check numerous online resources that will help you pick the best plant varieties for your region of the country.Take extra caution to ensure your Fall transplants have plenty of water as the soil and other plants are currently competing for any trace of moisture. This is also a great time to add a layer of mulch that will help prevent weeds and increase your garden’s water retention. Planning your Harvest Typically, a vegetable harvest should be planned from the plate backwards. Will you be consuming, sharing, or donating the fruit of your labor? These questions along with the selection of your plants will help you plan the harvest. Today in the Southwest HDQ Community Garden we’re hoping for a large Thanksgiving harvest of fresh organic produce. The large majority of our community garden has been planted so we are in a growing and maintenance mode. At many home vegetable gardens in the South, gardeners will stagger their planting in the Fall to extend the harvest season. It’s not unusual to still be harvesting Fall crops for a Christmas meal.   Favorite Fall Crops Some crops just seem to excel when planted for fall production. Of course, an early hard frost can quickly change things. Here are a few favorite vegetables for Fall planting, each requiring around 60 days to harvest.
  • Beets – Start beets from seed. Beets are highly nutritious and produce multiple crops. Both beet leaves and bulbs are edible.
  • Broccoli – Probably the most productive fall crop grown, when you consider the dollar value of the crop. Broccoli is a good choice to use transplants instead of seed. Maintain moisture and fertility for top production.
  • Collard Greens – My favorite Fall crop. Collards are easy to grow from seeds or transplants and widely available this time of year. Collards are a nutritional all-star and can be prepared to eat in five minutes.
  • Green Beans – Also known as string beans or snap beans. Green beans grown in the fall are sweeter and better tasting than their spring grown brethren.
  • Squash - Fall grown squash can really be productive. Fortify your soil with several shovels full of compost prior to planting.
  We will be planning our harvest at the Southwest HDQ Community garden for mid-November in time to give Thanks in our community. Spring planning is on the horizon already. Gardening always keeps you looking ahead and dreaming of magnificent crops. I know the food banks will appreciate anything sent their way. Do you have any plans for your garden?