Virginia Cooperative Extension

Between the Rows - A Guide to Vegetable Gardening
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September in the Vegetable Garden

Planning the Fall and Winter Garden
Welcome veggie gardeners! VCE supports local gardeners with a host of resources, including free classes, plant clinics and this newsletter. Want to know more? Subscribe here to receive future issues. Missed out on past issues? You can get them all here.
Garden Guide
September To Do List
  • Direct sow Fall/Winter crops, such as salad and mustard greens, spinach, kale, radish, beets, leeks, broccoli, raab, carrots, parsnip, turnips, kohlrabi, and rutabaga
  • Plant transplants started indoors (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage); water deeply after planting
  • Direct sow cooler weather herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, dill, chives, chervil, arugula, sage, and fennel
  • Continue to harvest warm weather crops, including tomatoes, peppers, and peanuts
  • Continue to prune tomato plants and lightly mulch (see August's post)
  • Harvest any small green tomatoes before risk of frost and store them in a paper bag, which will allow them to continue to ripen
  • Fully remove warm weather annuals as they become spent, especially those that may become susceptible to pests and disease
  • Harvest warm weather herbs, such as basil and sage, and preserve any overages by drying indoors for use later, or by making and freezing a variety of different pestos using these herbs and other greens for use in the winter months
  • Cut back spent plants and collect any seed for next year
  • Prune raspberries and blackberries bushes
  • Plan to harvest sweet potatoes in time to avoid any sudden drops in temperature, which will damage the crop; cure potatoes before storing
  • Keep an eye out for low temperatures that might damage remaining crops, such as tomatoes and peppers
  • Plant Fall/Winter cover crops, such as rye/wheat/oats, peas, vetch, and clover
  • Order garlic, onions, and shallots for Fall planting
  • Prepare for end of season general maintenance
Plant, Pest or Other Garden Questions?

Contact the VCE Horticulture Help Desk 

Knowledgeable Virginia Cooperative Extension volunteers are available to answer questions Monday-Friday from 9am to noon.
Before planting Fall/Winter seeds or transplants, prepare the soil to nurture new growth. Add organic matter and cover soil with a one inch layer of compost to help restore nutrients depleted by this year's vegetable crop. Adding compost helps retain moisture and keep seedlings cool in the late Summer. Use flowing row covers for new seed and transplants. When selecting plants to grow, be sure to look for early maturing varieties that have a shorter time to harvest. Keep in mind that fall growth is slower, due to shorter days and cooler nights (about two weeks slower).

Here is a planting guide to help you select vegetable types that tend do well in the Fall. These include: cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, and bok choi); leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, arugula, Asian greens, mustard, and cilantro); and root crops (beets, carrots, turnips; parsnips, and rutabagas). When planting in the Fall, take into account the “Short Day Factor” and modify your seed-starting date by adding an additional 14 days to the number of days until seeds germinate and plants reach maturity (listed on the seed packet), backing out from the first frost date for your area. Plant seeds slightly deeper than in the Spring to prevent seeds from drying out. More information on Fall vegetable gardening is available here.

Consider extending your growing season by planning for a "year round" garden. Here are tips for growing vegetables throughout the Winter months, including tips on what to grow and how to build cold-frames, and other tips on how to protect your harvest in freezing temperatures.

Replenish your garden soils by planting a cover crop, such as winter rye, wheat, or oats, hairy vetch, peas, or clover. A listing of various Fall cover crops and planting schedules is available here. These crops help keep the soil loose, reduce erosion, and add valuable nutrients, including nitrogen, to the soil during the winter. Cover crops are easy to plant and require little maintenance until spring. Lightly mulch broadcast seeds with a thin layer of straw. Learn more about cover crops here and here.

If you need more hands-on exposure, please consider attending VCE's fall "Taste and Tour" on Sunday, September 10 (1pm-3pm), at the Potomac Overlook Regional Park located at 2845 Marcey Road in Arlington, VA. The focus of VCE's Organic Vegetable Demonstration Garden is to educate the public on growing an urban vegetable garden using organic production methods. At the fall festival you'll be able to see how the garden is gearing up to grow vegetables in the upcoming months and get tips on how to plan for a fall and winter garden. This flyer provides more information.

Consider attending the 2017 Urban Agriculture Summit, October 5-6, 2017, at George Mason University, Arlington Campus (Founders Hall), located at 3351 Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22201. Register here. For other information, see the event's flyer.
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