Tips for a Bountiful Fall Food Garden

One of the benefits of living in the Grand Canyon State is the warmer temperatures. The climate in Phoenix allows you to enjoy cool-season vegetables for a good part of the year. Many area gardeners start with an early fall planting and then may continue to plant well into the season. Check out these tips for a bountiful fall food garden harvest.

Choose Cool-Season Vegetables

Cool-season vegetables grow well in both the spring and fall for a quick growing season. But, in the Phoenix area, you can plant cool-season vegetables several times thanks to the mild winters. Broccoli, carrots, lettuce, and potatoes enjoy the cooler nights and warm days as opposed to the blazing heat during the summer.

Know the Right Time to Harvest

With such a long growing season for cool-season vegetables, it can be tough to figure out when your plants are ready to harvest. Broccoli can take anywhere from 55 to 80 days to reach maturity, whereas lettuce and beets may be ready in 45 days. You can harvest radishes a month after planting, then plant more.

Keep Weeds Away

While the plants in your garden may love the cooler weather, so will the weeds, and they can snuff out your hard work. Make sure to keep garden rows orderly by picking weeds when they first appear. Ignoring your garden for a few weeks can end in disaster if weeds take hold. Use bark chips or grass clippings at the base of the plants to help keep their areas weed-free and provide mulch to retain water. Choose an optimal watering schedule that keeps plants hydrated during the fall and winter.

Try New Varieties

Many gardeners across the nation don’t get a second chance to plant fall veggies. Gardeners in Phoenix can continue planting through the winter as long as temperatures stay above freezing and there’s enough sunshine. Consider trying out some new vegetables such as cilantro or arugula to spice things up. Take advantage of the prolonged growing season that will keep your fridge stocked full of healthy foods.

Prepare for Insects

We’re not the only ones who enjoy the absence of freezing temperatures in Phoenix. Plant-eating bugs have heard about the climate here through the grapevine. Whitefly is a common pest for gardeners. It destroys fall crops, especially squash and melons. These small white aphids suck the water out of plants and wreak havoc on fall harvests. You’ll know you have an infestation of whiteflies when you move a plant leaf, and a swarm of small white insects pops out. Check the underside of leaves in the garden to find the eggs. You can use organic pest control methods, like neem oil and sticky traps, to keep them off your vegetables.

There’s still plenty of time to get your fall vegetables in the ground and take advantage of our extended growing season. Happy planting! —Miki Miller writes and blogs about gardening, landscaping and pest control.

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