The Farmer's Almanac is predicting very mild and very wet conditions for our area this winter. It's beginning to look like 2012 might be a great winter to grow vegetables and flowers late into the year. Here are some ways to get started.
Start your fall vegetable garden
The Charlotte / Mecklenburg area is rich in soil and weather conditions that are favorable to growing many fall crops. Many fall vegetables will continue to grow and produce food after light frosts if covered with a frost fabric. Deep leafy greens, such as kale, collard greens, spinach, Swiss chard and mustard greens are all easy to grow in the cool weather. Saute until tender in olive oil with pine nuts, dried cranberries and a little garlic for a lovely side dish. Leafy greens can also be used in lasagnas, soups or omelets.
Root crops, such as turnips, beets, parsnips and carrots will continue to develop delicious, tender roots underground in winter. Heartier annuals, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbages can continue to grow under a cover and taste better after the frost. Fall is also a good time to grow squash, peas, fennel, spring onions and bush beans. Garlic and leeks are both planted in the fall in this area and harvested in late spring or early summer.
Plant perennials, trees and bushes
Planting perennials, trees and bushes in the fall allows the plants to grow roots in the cooler weather and prepare for our harsh summers and occasional droughts. Now is a great time to review your garden plans and decide what you want to plant this fall. Several beautiful flowering perennials are available in local stores. Fruit trees, perennial vegetables such as asparagus or Jerusalem artichokes, and fruit bushes can be added to your kitchen garden in the fall. UNCC's annual plant sale is a great source of plants that do well in the Carolinas, and will take place on October 4th (for members), 5th and 6th.
Prepare your flower beds and raised beds
Spring can catch you by surprise. There are too many things to do and not enough time to do them. Even if you choose not to start your vegetables or flowers in the fall, preparing the beds in the fall will give you a head start in the spring.
Clean up any existing debris and remove existing weeds. Spread compost and gently work it into the bed, being careful to not disturb existing roots. Spread an inch or so of mulch on top of the soil to suppress weeds.
Several companies sell raised beds that can be easily set up and filled with good soil. Several of my fellow examiners have posted articles on how to build raised beds:
- DIY Project: Build a raised bed garden out of reclaimed barnwood
- How to build a wheelchair accessible raised bed garden
- Building Raised Beds in the Garden
- Building an affordable raised bed garden
With a little preparation, your garden can grow well into the fall season and continue to be beautiful and productive.
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