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Your garden: How to transition to a fall vegetable garden

Gregory Brock is surrounded by tomatoes and other vegetables in his back-yard garden. Some of them will soon be replaced by fall seedlings.
Gregory Brock is surrounded by tomatoes and other vegetables in his back-yard garden. Some of them will soon be replaced by fall seedlings.

Gardeners Jeanette Coufal and Gregory Brock offer the following tips for transitioning from a summer vegetable garden to a fall vegetable garden.

1. A number of vegetables, including broccoli, peas, spinach, kale, lettuce, onions and radishes, are tolerant of the cold. They flourish and have better flavor when they mature in cooler weather. Choose fast-maturing varieties, and plant seedlings and seeds right now.

2. Clean up your summer garden. Remove old, dying plants, and put the debris in the city's yard waste container. This is the single best way to rid your garden of disease organisms and insect eggs.

3. Plant a cover crop in the empty areas of your garden. We particularly like Austrian peas because they grow well in cool weather and they fix nitrogen in the soil for the coming year. Next spring, you turn over the cover crop to provide more organic material for the garden.

4. Mulching is the gardener's best friend. We collect leaves (ground-up leaves decompose best) in the fall and use them to mulch our garden in the next season. Mulching is important because it keeps down weeds and holds in the moisture, and at end of season, it can be roto-tilled into the soil to create more organic matter.

5. Keep simple records. Note varieties that grew well and those not to plant again. For example, our zucchini plants typically succumb to the squash vine borer before we get much production. This year, we planted a solid-stem Italian squash called Tromboncino, which was immune to the borer. It produced long, slender summer squash, and the fruits you miss grow into large winter squash.

6. Draw a map of where you planted varieties this year, and don't plant the same crops in the same locations next year. We plant peppers, beans and cucumbers in our front yard among the flowers, so we have more areas to rotate. Rotating crops reduces soil diseases and pests.

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