Archaeologists think domestic agriculture started about 10,000 B.C. Before that, humans foraged for berries, roots and other edibles in the area where they were camped. When the food ran out where they were, they would move to a new place to find food again. Eventually they said, “Hey, we can bring the bushes, roots and other food sources and plant them right here in our back yard.” No more moving. And that was the beginning of back yard vegetable gardening!
Back to the future, here in Loudoun County, our vegetable gardens are slowly transitioning from summer to fall. You may still have a full supply of tomatoes, but not so much of summer squash. Now is the time to get ready for cool weather crops.
Fall crops for our area include lettuces, kale, brussels sprouts, carrots, kohlrabi, leeks, radishes, spinach and turnips. Before you plant, clean out any bedraggled summer plantings. You can compost the healthy vegetation and should throw out anything that suffered a disease. If you had a pest problem don’t plant any related crop in the same bed. For instance, don’t follow early cabbage with a late variety in the same bed if you had a problem with cabbage loopers (caterpillars). If you feel your bed needs amendments add them before you plant your next crop.
Consider floating row covers after your plants are established. Row covers are a sort of canopy made of lightweight material suspended over the top of plants with sticks or half hoops. They are used to deter pests and can even extend the growing season. You can find them in local garden centers and nurseries.
If there are no fall vegetables you wish to grow, consider planting a cover crop like red clover. This will deter weeds over the winter. Planting a legume such as clover as a cover crop can increase the amount of nitrogen in the soil and reduce your need for fertilizer. Just be sure to turn it under before it goes to seed.
Even though you don’t desire fall vegetables for you or your family, you could still plant a crop for the Loudoun food bank, Interfaith Relief. To find out more how you can help others, go to the “plant a row” organization website and/or Interfaith Relief.
This blog is brought to by the Loundoun County Master Gardeners. If you have questions on gardening you can call our help desk at 703-771-5150 or visit our web site.