Fall Gardening

After watching my garden struggle through the hot hot New Mexico summer sun, I had almost given up hope. Luckily in the latest issue of Mother Earth News there is an article about fall gardening. I am wondering, if I plant a fall garden if it will last all the way through spring. I mean, it does get cold here at night, but I might just have enough of a micro climate to keep frost off. It has me excited.

Here are some highlights on what to do.
  1. Start seeds- broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale (essentially all your Brassicas). There is a great website called Skippy's Vegetable Garden that will tell you when to start seeds or when to direct seed. They also have a spring guide. Transplant these seedlings after 3 weeks, during cloudy weather (good luck here in Las Cruces, there never seems to be cloudy weather- or in other words, invest in a shade cloth- more info to follow).

  2. Direct seed fast growing varieties of broccoli, kale, kohlrabi in shallow furrows, covered with a 1/2 " of potting soil. Keep seeds moist until germination. Soaker hoses or soaker drip tubing is great for this.

  3. Keep transplants moist and shadded for a few days, this should keep successful transplant rates up to around 75%- we ALL know that in Las Cruces your seedlings will keel over the very day you set them out if they don't have shade. Some ideas for shade are old sheets, shade cloth (available at nurserys, or big box stores in the spring), old flower pots, or kill 2 birds with one stone and make a shade cloth/ bug netting out of tulle.

  4. Even short periods of drought stress can stunt or kill fall crops.

  5. Mulch between plants using newspaper (at least) and ideally a mulch on top. This is after you have your irrigation set out. This will keep the killer sun from being so... killer.

  6. If your yard is like my yard, I can see the cabbage worms propagating- literally- the little white butterflys nest in my rosemary that sits in the middle of the garden. They have already eaten most of my brussels sprouts from earlier this season- because I didn't protect them. Prevent this by covering seedlings with a summer weight insect barrier (or tulle on stakes. You will have to raise it as the seedlings grow, but it will keep most of the buggers off.

  7. There are MANY vegetables you can grow in the fall. Skippy's garden fall calender has almost all of them, it is a great resource.

Now, here was my plan. I was going to go to the city and get a great load of compost to put down in my garden beds, tweek my irrigation then cover it with newspaper and mulch for the winter. Part 1 has failed. The cities mulch is a complete joke. The 2" screened compost is a bunch of 4-6" sticks that need another couple seasons to actually compost, nothing smaller (that stuff they must sell, not give away to poor residence like me). So, I am going to try to hit up some fall landscaping sales and get some bags of compost, then lay out my new dripper soaker hose and see if the winter will be kind to us and not freeze anything.

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