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Fall Gardening Tips for Oklahoma Gardeners

H old on to your Jalapenos!!!!!!
The best garden season is coming soon. That's right. Fall is the ideal time to grow and "keep" vegetables in the garden. For you visual types we have the handy, dandy OSU Fall Gardening Fact Sheet: No. 6009 . sow carrots, beans, cucumbers, summer squash, beets, Irish potatoes, lettuce, cole crop transplants, mustard, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips. Here are a few thoughts on the process. Clean up existing plants, and mulch the soil to "pre-cool" it. In abut ten days, pull the mulch away and start sowing and planting.
L et's start with those peppers.
They've probably been producing puny peppers in July and August. With the arrival of cooler temperatures, pepper pollen will remain viable for longer periods. This enables more thorough floral fertilization and subsequently larger pepper pods. So, clip back any little malformed peppers, prune the plants back by one third, give them a shot of nitrogen fertilizer and in about five weeks start picking.
S ome of my best tomatoes have come on in the fall.
Local garden centers have been offering fresh tomato transplants for fall gardening. Ideally, these are planted in mid- July. But, if we get them in by late August we can squeeze by with a little help from the petrochemical industry. As night temperatures dip below 65 degrees, consider a little protection for the plants using plastic draped over large tomato cages. Just a little covering (not in intimate contact with the plant) will hold in ground heat at night, aiding fruit set.
S eptember is garlic planting time.
Set cloves two inches deep and four inches apart. As foliage emerges, provide plenty of water, mulch (to fight winter weeds) and nitrogen fertilizer. We use bunny poop, because we have a steady supply from our daughter's pet rabbit. It's pelletized and slow release. Harvest next June when tops begin to die down.
B roccoli, B russels S prouts, and C abbage
all thrive in cool, moist weather conditions. Best of all, Brussels sprouts can be grown to maturity, then "stored" in the garden. Try some of the lovely red they mature, they'll have a lovely purple color due to cooler temperatures. But keep the B.t. handy. Bacillus thuringiensis dust or liquid is the smart way to keep cabbage looper and diamondback moth caterpillars under control. Their populations are well-established by fall and can decimate these plants.
K ohlrabi and T urnips
In early September we can direct seed kohlrabi and turnips. Both green and purple kohlrabi varieties will grow very well. Both turnips and kohlrabi will be best if harvested when they are tennis ball size or smaller. "Tokyo Market", a.k.a. 'White Tokyo' or 'Tokyo Cross' is a delicious, creamy white turnip that's ideal for adding to fall salads.
S peaking of salads.
Of course we can sow lettuce in mid-September, harvesting into late fall. But how abut trying kale for salads served with a warmed dressing? One of the better salad greens that Master Gardeners, Sherry and Rick Stiller introduced to me is mizuna. It's a japanese green with a delicate mild mustard taste. Mache, also called corn salad, is one of my favorite mild fall greens.

Any tender plants coming up now will be very attractive to flea beetles and cucumber beetles. They love tender, succulent foliage. The best control is exclusion. As soon as seeds germinate and emerge from the soil, cover the bed with floating row cover fabric and seal the edges. Rain and sunlight can penetrate, but not those nasty little bugs. Check underneath frequently, however, to make sure this is really the case.

Eliot Coleman, a market gardener and writer living in Maine, has written a great book titled: "The New Organic Grower's Four Season Harvest". Now the key word here is harvest. Mr. Coleman contends that many crops can be grown to maturity and then kept in the garden through winter as though they are in our refrigerator crisper. In Maine he accomplishes this by placing cold frames over mature beds of greens, then adds a hoop house over the top. That's simply an unheated, plastic covered greenhouse. He then harvests food as needed.

Lucky for we Okies!! We don't have to go to those lengths. If freezing weather threatens our mature, "stored-in-place" crop we can usually get by with a light cold frame made from recycled materials.

Unlucky for we Okies!!!!! It is sunny here in winter. Stuff gets hot in a cold frame. Be wise, and invest in a handy, dandy automatic opener arm for the top vent. It saves a lot of twice-daily maintenance. Of course, visiting our garden twice a day is a wise thing to do: It gives us a chance to harvest something, makes us aware of watering and possible insect infestations and might help us throw off the stress of a thirty phone-call day.

As a wise farmer once said: "The best addition to our gardens is our footprints applied daily as we spend time caring for our crops". Have a great fall!