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Now’s good time to plant for fall harvest

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Most of us are only too happy to think that the gardening season is on the downhill slope. We can sit inside with a cool lemonade and wait for the weather to cool down.

Not so, according to Duane Hatch, who is busily planting for fall harvest.

Longtime readers of this column know his name because each week from 1984-89 he shared his best gardening ideas in this newspaper. As a horticulturist for Utah State University Extension, he shared ideas on vegetables, fruits, lawns and ornamentals through classes, TV and many other mediums.

After retirement, he and his wife, Rose Marie, served a mission in Spain for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, moved back to Oregon and returned to Salt Lake City to serve an LDS Church humanitarian mission. This included a stint in Mongolia to teach how to grow vegetables under very hostile conditions. In between, he did a weekly gardening radio program, spoke to numerous master gardeners and other groups.

Above all, he plants Hatch Patch gardens wherever he goes. His trademark garden is now in Clinton, where he resides.

When I visited his garden he was already in full production, but he never liked wasted space. One of his favorite axioms is, "Mother Nature never tolerates bare ground. If you don't plant something, she will! And what she plants are weeds."

Double cropping means double harvest. His garden peas are gone but the late corn crop has replaced them. To get them off to a good start, he grew them from transplants. That corn should be ready in mid-September. The first crop he planted will be ready July 24.

Hatch explains that you have to count backwards to determine what and when to plant. "If your first frost is the first of October, then you can still plant warm season crops that mature in 60 days or less because it cools down later in the season and the vegetables don't mature as fast."

These crops include snap beans, cucumbers and summer squash. Plant them now and enjoy a harvest until frost. Summer squash produce several good pickings, but quality and production go down with age. Planting snap beans now avoids problems with the Mexican bean beetle.

Hatch promotes summer planting of many other vegetables. "Cool-season crops that mature when temperatures drop in the fall are much tastier and have a better texture than those that mature in the heat of midsummer. You want them to mature in mid-September, so plant them later."

These crops include leafy vegetables such as lettuce, chard and spinach, the root crops including carrots and beets and cole crops such as broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower and cabbage. They are cold tolerant, so they are not damaged by light frosts in early fall.

He showed me the seed he had just planted. "These are planted for my fourth crop of kohlrabi this year. This Swiss chard will produce all summer. The parsnips and carrots you see that I just planted and are growing now I intend to leave in the ground and mulch them and harvest them through the winter. I did that last year with excellent results."

While it might seem easy to throw some seeds in the ground right now, you must pay attention to some potential problems.

"Keeping the soil moist is a trick," Hatch explains. "You can sprinkle them down daily or in 100-plus weather even twice per day. I usually like to cover them with a strip of burlap or with the Remay fabric. That holds the moisture and lets you water without washing away the seeds.

"Sometimes I like to plant two to three seeds in a small hole filled with potting mix so it does not crust over like the soil is inclined to do. At other times I have germinated them indoors under better conditions. You can start some indoors in a discarded cups or cell pack left over from the spring. The small transplants will be ready to set out in a couple of weeks.

"I have minor problems with cabbage root maggot but for the first time in many years, I have hosta leaves that have no holes. I do not have snails and slugs, but they can be major problems. I also see the cabbage loopers and worms, but the BT does a good job of controlling them."

Use this guide to decide the when to plant fall crops:

• Direct-seed before July 15: summer squash, sweet corn and cucumbers.

• Direct seed from the middle to the end of July: beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, carrots, green onions, lettuce, peas and turnips.

• Plant your beets, carrots, green onions, kohlrabi, lettuce, radishes and turnips until Aug. 15.

• Plant overwintering onions, garlic and kale in August. Kale can be harvested this fall or next spring. The onions and garlic are for harvest next June. Walla Walla Sweet are nice mild onions and good choices for overwintering.

Hatch's last advice is to pay attention to plant nutrition. "To see a major difference in a garden, fertilize the plants at planting. That gives a bigger plant with much better yields, and most people don't realize how much difference that makes in their garden."

Larry A. Sagers is the horticulture specialist, Utah State University Extension at Thanksgiving Point.