Thinking ahead to autumn

I know, I know. With the cold, wet spring we had, it seems that the gardening season has just started. But looking at the calendar tells me we need to start thinking about the fall and winter garden.

Besides, maybe it'll help you feel cooler to look through seed catalogs while taking a break in the shade. You still have time to order seeds if you don't have them already. But don't wait too long or your veggies won't be ready to harvest before frost.

Planting carrots at the end of July will give you an October harvest, or you may want to leave them in the ground and pull them as needed this winter. Either way, here are some tips for raising a good crop.

For years, I thought carrots did not germinate well. Then I learned the secret of soaking the seed first. Carrots have a hard seed coat, and an overnight soak makes a huge difference in the number you get coming up in your garden.

Another carrot tip: They must have a moist seedbed at all times until they are well established. I like to use burlap to cover the seeded area because it holds moisture well once it is soaked. Several layers of newspaper can be used for the same purpose. Once the grass-like shoots appear, remove the covering, but do not let the new seedlings dry out.

Still another reason I like to plant carrots now is that the carrot maggot fly is not around like it is in the spring. Those rascals lay eggs in the soil and the larvae burrow into the carrots. Using a floating row cover in spring helps deter the fly, but planting in summer pretty well avoids the problem altogether.

Another crop I prefer planting now rather than in spring is bush beans. I find that the summer planting yields a better crop and, as with carrots, many insect problems are avoided. Keep in mind that beans are very frost sensitive so there is always the risk of having a frost earlier than our average date of Oct. 19. So read the seed packet to estimate harvest date, get them planted soon and keep your fingers crossed for a late frost.

Root crops like beets and kohlrabi can be planted now — they will take a light frost and keep growing, although slowly. Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower can be started from seed in late July to transplant in August.

When the weather cools and days shorten a bit more, plant lettuce, spinach and peas. Lettuce and spinach can take surprisingly low temperatures. In years of mild winters, I have picked some kinds all winter. One trick is to plant lettuce in containers in late fall, then pull the pots into the garage if temperatures in the teens are forecast.

Planting peas in the fall will not give you a crop this year, but the plants will winter over and give you a fine taste of spring early next year.

One non-food crop to delay planting is bulbs. Wait until October or November, when the ground is thoroughly cooled. Otherwise, they will begin to grow too soon and may be damaged by a cold snap. But that's another column.

Coming up: On Tuesday, Aug. 24 from 7 to 9 p.m., master gardener Peggy Corum will teach a class on plant propagation — or plant division. The class will be held at the Oregon State University Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road in Central Point. Cost is $5. Call 541-776-7371 for further information.

Save the date of Saturday, Sept. 18, and plan to attend the OSU Extension Open House. More information on this free event will be coming.

Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. E-mail her at

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