a guest post by Robert Westerfield, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Extension Coordinator
It’s hard to believe that fall is here (finally!), and school is back in session, while we still suffer from maximum degree temperatures. But it won’t be long before county offices start to get request for school or community gardens. Oftentimes, Master Gardeners are tapped for their expertise to help out with these community projects. Although it might be a little early to plant, there are plenty of things you can do right now to get the garden ready.
As most Master Gardeners know, the soil is the most important component of any successful vegetable garden. If it has not been done in a while, it would be a good idea to pull soil samples now, especially to check the pH. It’s impossible to grow good vegetables unless the pH value is adjusted properly. For most vegetables this will be in the slightly acidic range of 6.0 to 6.5. It’s also a great time now to add new soil amendments and compost to the plants and beds. Whether it is traditional in-ground plantings or raised beds, the addition of good, clean organic matter will pay big dividends in the health of the crop.
Take an inventory of the irrigation ability of the school or community garden. On new plantings, be sure that irrigation is included in the plan. Drip systems are by far the best way to water vegetables. Overhead sprinklers or hand watering can be done, but a lot of water is wasted. Now is the time to test the system prior to planting to be sure everything is ready to go.
Finally, the decision of what to plant needs to be made. Certainly traditional crops, such as broccoli, lettuce, leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, and other traditional favorites can be added to your planting beds. Broccoli or cauliflower are best planted as transplants, and can still be started now in the greenhouse or bought as completed transplants later. Most cool season vegetables are best planted from late August through the month of September.
Remember as Master Gardeners, you are connected to a large bank of publications and specialists that can assist you with your school and community garden needs.