Your fall garden calendar: Produce

Thanks to an extra-mild autumn season, Atlantans get to enjoy fresh produce longer than most gardening...

Thanks to an extra-mild autumn season, Atlantans get to enjoy fresh produce longer than most gardening enthusiasts across the country. Since the summers can be so hot, plenty of planting can be left to the cooler, more favorable months of August through November. The trick to late-season planting is to create a fall garden calendar that balances a plant's hardiness with the type of weather you'll see. While some months are great for direct planting, others are better for transplanting and prepping your garden for early spring. See how you can increase your harvest just by planting the right produce at the right time.

August. As the summer months and the accompanying heat start to taper off, Georgians can start planting in earnest. Much of your typical produce plants are good to go, even if it seems a bit hot still. Plan to direct seed arugula, snap beans, cabbage, cantaloupe, kale, edamame and turnips during this month. You'll also enjoy an extended season for tomatoes, so you can sneak a few more pounds out of your summer harvest. Just make sure to get your garden planted by early to mid-August, when you can benefit from tons of a sunshine and a bit of a rainy season.

Who to contact. Talk to an experienced landscaper about early fall planting. The success of your crops will depend heavily on current conditions. If you've had a particularly hot year, a good landscaper or nursery worker might suggest that you hold off planting until the conditions are more favorable.

September. It'll finally start to cool off a little during September, which means a blessed relief from your air conditioning bill. September is a great month for transplanting, so get your cuttings ready to go. Turnips, collard greens and cabbage transplants have the best chance for success during September, while your growing plants from August are flourishing. You can also direct seed carrots during this month, so pick up your seeds from your local nursery. If you start planting early this month and it's been a warm fall, you can still catch up on some of your August planting. Just be aware of frost warnings come October and November.

Who to contact. If you're unsure of how to prep your plants for the cooler weather, visit your local nursery. They'll have ideas on not only where to place your produce so it gets the most sunshine, but also how to protect them from a possible frost. Luckily, Atlanta Septembers are usually perfectly mild, so you shouldn't need to do more than water and weed your growing garden.

October. Finally, it's true fall in Atlanta. While you might not get the crisp air that other parts of the country are enjoying, you do get weather that's perfect for serious fall planting. October is the best month for transplanting, so start now to create crops that'll pay you back in spades. Even more delicate fruit trees do well when transplanted in October, so plan on your apples, blueberries, figs, grapes, peaches, plums and strawberries. October is also a great month for nuts--walnuts and pecans specifically. Come spring, all of your hard work will be evident in an abundant harvest of bright, ripe fruit.

Who to contact. An experienced landscaper can explain how to properly prune your fruit trees so you get the most, largest fruit from each. Even a casual gardener can benefit from a quick lesson in caring for delicate fruit trees so you're eating fresh produce and homemade pies come spring.

November. Your last chance for your fall garden calendar, November is best for hardy leafy greens. Plant your collard greens and kale now. You can also direct seed turnips, which are known to weather frost well. Meanwhile, your other produce should have already been ripe and ready for the picking, so you're finally seeing the fruits of your labor (pun intended). If you decide to plant during November, it's a good idea to either plant in a greenhouse or invest in some plant coverings to keep frost off of your greens. The planting season is essentially done until February, when Georgians enjoy early planting for almost all crops.

Who to contact. Hey, no gardener is perfect. If your produce isn't as abundant as you'd planned, or some of your crops have spoiled, there should be plenty of fresh produce sold at farmer's markets and in your local grocery store. You can always ask for tips from seasoned growers in your community and plan a little better next year. That's one of the main benefits of gardening and growing your own food; there's tons of room for improvement!

If you're still looking for a hand for fall planting, check out Kudzu for experienced Georgia-based landscapers who know the climate and the tricks to getting the best harvest possible.

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