by Jim Longstreet, Master Gardener and Vegetable Specialist
Now is the time to plant your fall vegetable garden. The summer heat is finally all but over as the average overnight low temperatures are finally below 70 degrees. The soil temperature is dropping as well and it is now safe to plant many vegetables for a fall crop.
I recommend the following vegetables, many of which you can buy as transplants in our local stores: arugula, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collards, garlic, kale, lettuce, onions, peas, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, tomatoes and turnips. I also recommend the following herbs for a fall garden: chives, cilantro, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Many of these plants do well even when the temperature dips below freezing, but for added insurance for a garden that can last into December here in the Permian Basin, I recommend lightly covering your garden on those frosty nights. I always plant my fall tomatoes in an area that I will cover (and keep above freezing) throughout the winter so that I can have fresh tomatoes until my spring garden kicks in.
Be sure you have enriched or amended your garden by adding plenty of compost (at least three inches) because your spring/summer garden surely depleted a lot of the nutrients necessary for a healthy fall garden. The added compost also helps with water retention.
Each year in the fall I usually add onto my garden an additional area as I claim a formerly grassed in section of my yard and surround it with 2 by 12 inch treated wood which I cover with plastic so as not to contaminate the soil. I will solarize the grass (http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74145.html) to completely kill it and then add finished compost and soil of equal parts. As I get that area ready for my new winter/spring garden, I also empty my composts and am ready to receive all the leaves from my trees as well as from the trees of my neighbors and friends. I make approximately seven cubic yards of compost each year with the generous donations of my neighborhood, which is enough to enrich my other garden area and to also create a new raised bed somewhere else.
So, I hope you make time to create a delicious fall vegetable garden and remember to share with your friends who are so generous with their fallen leaves.