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  • MOJAVE GARDENER

    It's time to plant veggies for fall and winter harvest

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  • The cooler temperatures of fall are just a few weeks away and along with it some new vegetable gardening opportunities. Many people don’t know vegetable gardening can also be done in the fall.
    Fall gardening is a real possibility, but it involves growing different plants than those grown for summer gardens. It will soon be that time of year when some of our summergrown veggies — tomatoes, squash, beans, corn, peppers — have seen better days and it will time to start cleaning up the garden and preparing for next spring. The veggies grown for spring and early summer harvest have been done growing for quite some time. You can use this available space and grow vegetables that are perfect for fall planting, which are plants that typically don’t do well during the summer’s extreme heat.
    Check out your favorite garden center or nursery for vegetable transplants, which will probably be your best bet for getting them established and closer to maturity before the wintery frost arrives.
    Planting seeds also works (which is what I am planting), but they need a little more time, so it is best to get started now. The idea is to get the plants as close to maturity as possible before it gets too cold. Once it gets really cold, they will stop growing.
    To extend the growing season and offer more protection, consider using a cold frame, greenhouse, row covers or planting in containers that can be moved into warmer areas at night.
    Typical vegetables that are successful for end-of-summer/ early fall planting include lettuce, bok choy, Swiss chard, radicchio, kale, turnips, broccoli, carrots, beets, peas, cauliflower, radishes, collards, spinach, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, parsnips and onions.
    These same vegetables also work well planted in late winter or early spring, where they can be harvested before planting the warm-season crops of summer. I recently ordered seeds for many of the mentioned veggies with heirloom variety seeds. Plants like carrots and parsnips can overwinter in the garden and get sweeter as the temperatures get colder.
    Prepare the soil just as you do for a summer garden — loosen it with a shovel or roto tiller or whatever else you have that can do the job.
    Remove as many rocks as you can. Then, add lots of organic materials such as compost to a depth of nine to 12 inches (especially important for root crops such as carrots, beets, parsnips and turnips). Avoid adding ingredients like wood shavings unless they are very well composted.
    Fertilizers or nutrient amendments are a good idea — organic products being the healthier choice for the environment. If you are just extending the season from your summer garden, refresh the soil a bit with some compost (I ended up buying some organic compost since my homemade compost isn’t ready yet) and possibly some quality fertilizers to replace what the summer crops used up. Root crops could benefit from the addition of some bone meal.
    Now that your soil is ready, its time to plant the transplants or seeds, whichever you decide.
    Transplants should be planted so the soil level is at the top of the root ball, but not covering any part of the stem. Press the soil firmly around the root ball, being careful not to damage the baby plants.
    For seeds, follow the package directions, which is especially important for seed depth. If you don’t have package directions to follow, a good ruleof- thumb is to plant the seed twice as deep as it is wide — a quarter-inch seed should be buried about half an inch deep. If the seeds are planted too deeply, the seedlings may rot and never make it to the soil surface.
    Water everything well and keep the soil moist but not soggy while the seeds germinate and begin to establish roots.
    I water a couple times a day during the time when the seeds are in the germination process, then I water more deeply each morning once the seedlings begin to develop a nice-sized root system. Plenty of organic material in the soil helps ensure that the essential moisture is retained and not just draining out. As temperatures cool, you may be able to water less frequently.
    There are several sources for seeds and other garden products.
    You can get them at our local nurseries and garden centers, but for a much wider selection, there are numerous catalogs available online. Among them are the following:
    • http://www.xmarks.com/site/www.williamrubel.com/Trescony/TRtresconyseeds.html — offers links to numerous seed catalog websites including many that feature heirloom and organic varieties.
    • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
    — www.RareSeeds.com offers over 1,200 varieties of non-GMO heirloom seeds.
    • Sustainable Seed Company
    — http://sustainableseedco.com
    — offering heirloom seeds, garden seeds, and organic heirloom seeds-non-hybrid vegetable, flower, and herb seeds.
    • Annie’s Heirloom Seeds
    — http://www.anniesheirloomseeds. com
    — offers only heirloom varieties - no hybrids and no GMOs.
    • Eden Brothers
    — http://www. edenbrothers.com
    — heirloom seeds in packets or in bulk.
    • Territorial Seed Co.
    — www.territorialseed.com includes information on cultural requirements (description, watering and nutrient needs, harvesting, etc.).
    • Park Seed — www.parkseed.com features a plethora of seeds, plus related links.
    • Burpee — www.burpee.com
    • Seeds Trust — www.seedstrust.com specializes in specialty, native, heirloom and organic seeds.
    • Johnny’s Selected Seeds
    — www.johnnyseeds.com offers many vegetables, flowers and herbs.
    • www.gardensalive.com specializes in “environmentally responsible products that work” and is dedicated to biological control of garden pests.
    HAPPY GARDENING!
    High Desert resident Micki Brown is a drought-tolerant plant specialist with a master’s degree in plant science. Send questions to be answered in the column to HorticultureHelp@aol.com.
    To see previous issues of the Mojave Gardener column, visit /sections/mojave-gardener/
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