Cool-weather vegetables

August 23, 1998

Q. I've never tried a fall vegetable garden before. What should I know before getting started, and what are some crops I could try?

A. Timing is critical for fall gardening success. Gardeners often sow fall crops too late, don't fertilize them adequately and fail to protect them from pests.

Extra time is required to allow fall crops to mature because the days are shorter and temperatures are cooler. Always add 14 days to the "days to maturity" number on the seed packet.

Protect young plants from pests with a floating row cover and keep the root system moist at all times. You may also need to shade the plants from direct sun until they become well established.

Easy-to-grow fall crops include lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets, corn salad, kale, turnips, mustard, chard, broccoli raab and Asian greens.

Q. My coneflower and black-eyed Susan plants are flopping every which way. I want to tie them up, but my husband wants to whack them back now. What do you suggest?

A. Either option is fine. If the plants are overgrown, you could cut them back and divide and replant the clumps. Be sure to keep them well-watered. Leaving the seed heads will provide birds with food for the fall and winter. Next year, you can cut these plants back in July to keep them stocky and upright and they will rebloom in August.

Q. How can I propagate my rosemary plant so I'll have young plants to take inside for the winter?

A. Take several 4- to 6-inch cuttings with a sharp knife or razor blade. Remove the leaves from the bottom three-quarters of each cutting. Dip each cut end in a rooting hormone compound and insert each cutting into a container holding loose, moist, soilless growing medium.

Cover the containers with a perforated plastic bag and place them in a shaded outdoor location. Be sure the medium does not dry out. Pull gently on the cuttings in two weeks to test for root growth. If you feel resistance, the roots are well established. When the plants begin to grow, bring them indoors.

This week's checklist

To destroy yellow jacket nests in the ground, spray a can of wasp and hornet killer directly into the nest. Mark the location in ,, the daytime with a stick or rock and return at night to spray.

Prepare garden soil now for spring planting of fruit bushes and trees. Test your soil and amend it with organic matter and lime (if necessary).

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507, or visit its Web site at www.agnr.umd.edu/users/hgic.

! Pub date: 8/23/98

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