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There’s still time to plant crops that can be harvested in the fall

It's time to make your way out to the vegetable garden. Hopefully your spring plantings have yielded some harvest and there is more forthcoming.

Contrary to popular opinion, you can still plant many varieties of vegetables for an autumn harvest. This extends your garden season and helps provide extra produce to store for the winter.

Although mustering the enthusiasm to do much planting when temperatures exceed 100 degrees is difficult, visualize the tasty treats coming from your garden this fall. That may provide the motivation to get the job done.

By midsummer, many early season vegetables, including radishes, beans, spinach, lettuce and peas, are harvested. Do not leave the area idle! Increase the production in your backyard garden by using the area efficiently.

Besides the produce, there is another important reason to plant for a fall harvest. Double cropping many short-season vegetables keeps the garden soil in production. If you do not plant something, Mother Nature will. Unfortunately, she usually chooses the easiest thing to grow — weeds.

Stretch the use of your garden area by planting short-season crops and cool-weather crops. Short-season crops usually mature in less than 70 days. Cool-weather crops include leafy vegetables, like lettuce; root crops, including carrots and beets; and cole crops, like kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. When these vegetables mature in the cool fall weather, they are high in quality. They are frost tolerant, so they are not damaged by light frosts.

It is best to raise a fall crop to go into storage. Carrots that you plant in the spring are fully mature by mid-summer. Leave them in the ground until fall and they are long past their prime. Store them for several more months and they are only slightly better to eat than tree branches.

Soil preparation is just as important when planting in mid-summer as it is at other times of the year. Remove dead plants and, of course, weeds. Till the area after adding a complete fertilizer such as 16-16-8 at one pound per 100 square feet. Banding fertilizer is even more efficient. Place the fertilizer about 2 inches to the side and about an inch deeper than the seeds. Banding provides nutrients for the plant but does not fertilize the weeds between the rows.

If you have not cleared out space in your garden to put in your fall vegetables, you can still seed them in the garden. Pick a sheltered location with good soil and plant seeds as a nursery bed in rows close together. Transplant these seedlings to their permanent location when you get other crops out of the garden in the next few weeks. This saves garden space and requires fewer seeds.

The biggest problem during hot, dry weather is getting seeds to germinate, emerge and thrive. Some ideas to increase plant survival include using a light mulch of dry grass clippings. Watch daily and remove it as small seedlings emerge. Burlap strips from gunny sacks will help prevent drying out. In addition, they let you water the area lightly and regularly without crusting the soil. Remove the burlap once the seedlings emerge from the soil.

If you prefer, place the seeds in the furrow at the proper depth. Instead of covering with the soil, use sand, peat moss or prepared potting soil to keep soil moist without crusting. The seeds will then emerge without severe stress.

You can also cover the row with a 1-by-6 board and remove the board as soon as the seedlings start to emerge. One technique that I have found useful is to take 4-inch-wide boards and nail them together lengthwise at a 90-degree angle. This forms a small "tent" over the row that keeps the soil from drying out and crusting. This encourages the seedlings to grow.

One serious problem when starting new seedlings is that snails and slugs, earwigs and other pests congregate under the boards and eat your emerging seedlings. Bait for these pests when you plant, using products that are registered for vegetable crops.

Pest control is vital. Maggots will destroy all the members of the cabbage and turnip families. Treat the soil to control maggots using a registered insecticide.

Diseases are not a frequent problem with one glaring exception. Planting peas in the middle of the summer is usually unsuccessful because the vines quickly develop powdery mildew. You can spray, but it is easier and better to manage the problem using resistant varieties. The best mildew-resistant peas are from Oregon State University, which has developed some specifically for this problem, including "Oregon Sugar Pod." The variety "Wando," the traditional warm-weather pea, and "Mr. Big" are resistant to powdery mildew.

Almost all of the edible podded peas are resistant to powdery mildew so they can be planted for a fall crop. "Sugar Ann," "Maestro," "Sugar Bon," "Super Snappy," "Super Sugar" and improved "Sugar Snap" are also resistant to powdery mildew. Check with local nurseries for these types.

Variety selection is also important. Generally, the same varieties that do well as spring plantings also do well as fall plantings. Check the days to harvest and avoid planting those with long growing seasons. Poor varieties or varieties not adapted to our area are not satisfactory in the spring or fall.

The following crops can be direct-seeded between now and July 31: beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, carrots, cucumbers, green onions, lettuce, peas, spinach, radishes and turnips. Even as late as Aug. 15, beets and carrots, green onions, kohlrabi and lettuce, radishes and turnips can still be planted.

Overwintering onions and kale can also be planted. Kale can be harvested this fall or early next spring. The onions are for harvest next June. Sweet Winter or Walla Walla Sweet are nice, mild onions and good choices for overwintering.

Some flowers can be started in the fall. Pansies, violas, stocks, wallflowers, foxglove and many others can be grown in your garden and transplanted to your favorite spot in the garden this fall.

Even though you might not enjoy planting in the hot summer sun, the rewards will be high-quality produce this fall. You won't be pulling weeds in unproductive space and you won't need as large an area for your garden. Try planting now for a scrumptious fall harvest.

Join Larry Sagers and co-host Don Shafer for the KSL Radio "Greenhouse Show" on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The subject this Saturday is summer flowering shrubs.