Gardening right through the fall and winter has some real advantages.
For one thing, the weather will be much cooler. Insects aren't nearly the problem they can be during the summer. This is particularly true after a cold snap. And some vegetables even taste better if grown in the cool of the year.
Broccoli and other cole crops grow well in fall gardens in Georgia.
Sweet Vidalia Onions
Georgia is famous for its sweet Vidalia onions. Why not try them in your garden? You can grow Vidalia onions from transplants you can buy at local stores throughout the fall, usually in bundles of about 50 plants.
Plant them in November or December with an in-row spacing of 4 to 6 inches and a between-row spacing of 14 to 18 inches.
Onions are heavy feeders, so you'll need a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 that also contains sulfur. Apply about 1 pound per 100 square feet before transplanting and apply again the end of January.
At the end of February, apply 0.5 pound of calcium nitrate (15-0-0). Your onions will be ready in April. Make sure the burgers are ready, too.
Cole crops, particularly collards and cabbage, have been a mainstay in the South. These can be started from seed or transplants.
Direct seeding should be done in late summer or early fall. Transplants can be set out a little later. Space plants 12 to 18 inches in the row, with rows 2 to 3 feet apart.
Several caterpillars can be troublesome on these crops, so keep an eye on them. They're particularly hard to control on broccoli or cauliflower if they get into the developing flower.
Bt products are particularly good at controlling these problems. Bt is a bacterium you can buy under many brand names. It makes caterpillars sick and eventually kills them.
Long History in South
Collards have a long history in the South. They probably did as much as any food to keep hunger at bay for many poor farmers. Even today you'll see collard plants 2 to 3 feet tall during the winter in the backyard of rural homes.
The lower leaves are often snapped off as the plants grow, leaving a tall, bare stem and a cluster of leaves on top. You don't have to harvest them this way. You can pull an entire plant once it reaches 18 to 24 inches tall.
Turnips can be grown much like cole crops. The bonus is that the tops and roots are both edible. Turnip greens are prepared much like collards, with the roots diced and added to the pot. You'll have to act quickly to get a crop in, though, because they require about 70 days to mature.
Garden Peas, Too
Garden peas probably won't last through a hard freeze, but will stand some light frost. Start them in September for peas in late November. Plant 3 to 4 seeds per foot in rows 6 to 24 inches apart.
Use the close spacing to form a bed of peas and the wider spacing if they need to be trellised. Check when you buy your seeds to see if they need trellising.
Edible-pod types are tasty. Often they will have "Sugar" in the name, such as "Sugar Pod," "Sugar Snap" or "SugarAnn."
(George Boyhan is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences)
(Terry Kelley is a former University of Georgia Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)