October's one of the greatest months of the year to get out in the vegetable garden and attend to possibly long-needed maintenance.
The Louisiana summer heat and humidity take a toll on the garden. If left unattended for the past few weeks, there will be no shortage of tasks to perform.
When freshening up the vegetable garden in fall, be sure to take a soil sample and send it off to the LSU AgCenter Soil Laboratory or drop it off at your local extension office for testing. Summer vegetables, such as tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, are extremely heavy feeders and will have extracted a large amount of nutrients from the soil. You don't want to be caught in the middle of growing fall and winter crops only to find out your soil lacks particular nutrients.
As the calendar moves forward, many of the deciduous shade trees will begin to drop their leaves. You might consider raking these leaves and using them as mulch in either your vegetable or flower gardens. You can add them directly to the garden or use a mulching lawn mower to first grind them. If you have more leaves than you need, consider storing them in plastic bags or composting them.
Before planting winter and fall crops, be sure to remove all okra, sweet potato, watermelon, cantaloupe and pumpkins plants that have finished growing. Replace them with cole crops, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and some of the many leafy greens, including lettuce, Swiss chard and mustard greens.
You might also give some thought to intercropping your vegetables. That means planting two different vegetable species together, knowing that one of the crops is going to be harvested much earlier than the second. A great example of intercropping is planting carrots and broccoli together.
Be sure to space the broccoli or the long-term crop at the appropriate distances. Eventually, broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower plants will grow close to one another, possibly touching by the end of the season. Meanwhile, early in the season, you can grow short-term crops in between, such as carrots, lettuce or radishes. This is an excellent way to maximize your space in the garden while getting more produce.
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