If you want a garden of healthy veggies andherbs, then now is the time to work your summer-weary soil for fall planting.
With many families tilling their own patches for economic and health reasons, the key to a successful edible garden is replacing nutrient-sapped dirt with enriching compost or mulch, says Jay Harper of Harper's Nurseries and Landscape Co. The same goes for growing flowers.
"The soil is hot, trashed, salty, packed and hard," Harper said of summer's toll.
Before reaching for the shovel, decide where to place the garden beds.
"A lot of people put their gardening space where it doesn't get enough sun or doesn't get enough air movement to breathe," Harper said.
Fall gardens need at least a half day of sun each day to produce decently. They also should not be tucked into a side yard or a corner where there is not enough air circulation, Harper added.
September is a good month to prepare the soil before planting from seed or transplant. Evenings begin to lengthen and drop in temperature, Harper said.
Fall gardens can take many forms, from in-ground or raised yard beds to containers on a home gardener's small patio.
"It helps if they know what their square footage is to help figure out how much of everything they will need," Harper said.
He noted that raised beds have become popular and there is even a special soil available for purchase for those beds.
"They don't have to buy all the special ingredients to make their own," Harper said.
Local nurseries can suggest the proper products for one's soil condition. As a general rule, add bags of fresh compost or mulch, plus gypsum and bone , and work into the soil, Harper said. Water the soil a few times before planting, especially if the soil was not used during the summer.
The next step is to determine what to plant. In addition to seasonal flowers, there are vegetables and herbs that can be easily grown. Harper said there is a renewed interest in home gardening, especially when it comes to crops.
"It's a combination of the economy and gas prices and food scares," he said.
New seed packets for fall planting have already arrived. Bulbs and bedding plants typically are in the nurseries and garden centers by mid-September.
Also, the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix will host its fall plant sale from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 16 and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 17 in the garden's east parking lot, 1201 N. Galvin Parkway. Admission is free.
In addition, the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County Master Gardeners will host a fall plant sale from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Cooperative Extension office, 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix.
Here are additional tips for a successful fall garden.
-�Plant flowers from seeds and transplants in September and October.
-�Popular fall blooms include petunia, pansy, geranium, snap-dragon, zinnia and marigold.
-�Don't forget the bulbs and rhizomes. Amaryllis, daffodil, canna lily, iris, paperwhite and tulip must be planted in the fall to bloom in the spring.
-�Sweet-pea seeds should be planted in October for spring bloom.
-�Mid-October through the end of November is the best time to broadcast wildflower seeds for spring bloom, both native and non-native varieties
-�Veggies can be planted now through late November for fall harvest.
-�Popular veggies include cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, chard, cucumber, kale, lettuce, onion (bulb and green) and radish.
-�Basil is a popular herb, but it does not like the cold so plant while the days and nights are still relatively warm, Harper said.
-�Other fall herb crops include oregano, mint and cilantro. Unlike basil, cilantro does not like the heat, Harper said.
-�One does not need a lot of tools to plant a fall garden, just a sturdy shovel, rake, gloves and sunscreen, Harper said.
"A garden spading fork is really nice to have," he added.
-�Now also is a good time to inspect tools, throwing away any that are broken or rusted."