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The fall garden and items of interest

By John Fulton

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[August 10, 2011]  It doesn't seem possible to think about fall, let alone a fall garden, after the past several weeks of heat and humidity. However, if you are interested in planting a fall garden, the time is upon us.

Many of the commonly grown fall crops require about 50 days before harvest, and this group includes beets, kohlrabi, green beans, Swiss chard, turnips and transplants of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. A few crops with shorter time required are leaf lettuce and spinach at 40 days and radishes at 25 days. An average date for our first killing frost in the fall is Oct. 10. Back off from this date by the days required for maturity of your crop, add a week to get them germinated, and we are at the seeding date for many of the crops.

You should remove all the residues from former crops and weeds before planting. It is also a good idea to add some fertilizer, such as 12-12-12, at the rate of 1 to 2 pounds per 100 square feet. Then till to incorporate the fertilizer and remaining debris, as well as loosen up the soil. Late summer plantings often require some additional water and sometimes a little shade to offset some of the hot soil temperatures we can encounter.

If you aren't into fall gardening, you might consider options to extend what you have growing now. Covering plants for the first expected frosts can add weeks to the season. The use of row covers, hotbeds and cold frames is even more of a sure thing.

Items of interest

There are several items being asked about on a frequent basis. Of course, many asking the questions probably don't read this, or they wouldn't be asking!

  • Tomatoes are experiencing blossom-end rot and several leaf diseases. Fungicide sprays are necessary for the leaf diseases, while blossom-end rot can be helped with a deep watering followed by at least 2 inches of mulch.

  • Tick populations have spiked the last two weeks. The high humidity has been ideal, but the lack of rainfall makes it somewhat puzzling. Protect yourself in highly infested areas with a 30 percent DEET product. Sprays of permethrin, bifenthrin or carbaryl can be used on vegetation to control ticks, but be particularly careful with the first two products since they can be deadly to cats and dogs.

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  • "Fall defoliators" are out and about. These include fall webworm, tent caterpillars, tussock moth caterpillars and many others. The lesson of the Japanese beetles has shown us that feeding damage is probably not going to kill a tree, but will make it unsightly.

  • Japanese beetle damage will continue for a few more weeks but at a lessened pace. Some beetles will linger until we get later into September.

  • Cicada killer wasp numbers have grown rapidly. These are the large wasps that use a cicada or grasshopper to lay eggs in, in a soil burrow. Affected areas can be treated with an insecticide if the nuisance is too great. The wasps that actually buzz around you are male and can't sting.

  • Cooler temperatures and moisture should bring back much of the brown grass in lawns, but there will be some dead spots. I'll cover seeding information next week, as we will be in the correct time to begin fall lawn seedings.

[By JOHN FULTON, University of Illinois Extension]

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