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TONY MELTON: Time to start planting fall vegetables

TONY MELTON: Time to start planting fall vegetables

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Believe it or not it is August and time to start planting your fall vegetables. It may be hotter than the sun-hot McBee sand to a barefoot baby, but you need to spray, mow, pull, or till those weeds and your spring crops and start fresh and new.

One of my favorite ways to get things under control again is to spray Roundup, Gramoxone, or other product and let it kill everything until crisp and then mow the weeds as close to ground as possible and plant through what is left. You may need a no-till planter if you have let things get too far out of control.

If possible, I like to plant without tilling the soil because tilling the soil has a tendency to bring more weed seed to the surface, increasing your weeds problems. These techniques reduce what we call the weed-seed-bank in the top 2 inches of your garden soil, are considered forms of stall-bed-culture, and are used in no-till planting, which is a major form of production for many farmers.

The dead weed debris also serves as added mulch and you only have to move the mulch a little where you are planting your seed and transplants. This works best if you kill the weeds before they go to seed and increase the amount of weed seed present in your soil. Remember these herbicides will kill every plant if they touch the leaves or tender stems. So do not get too close to desirable plants, do not apply when windy. I am constantly questioned about why a plant has bright yellow leaves, usually indicating Roundup damage. Remember the label is the law; therefore, always follow all label directions.

We may have to put up with the heat but eat your heart out, Northerners. It is a Southern privilege to plant two, three or more crops on the same land in the same year. If you planted indeterminate tomatoes (like Betterboy that keeps on growing), eggplant and okra they may continue to yield until frost. You still have a few weeks to plant short-season vegetables like snap beans, cucumbers, and summer squash. However, you may want to plant some now and more later, what we call consecutive plantings, to extend your harvest season.

Remember, most of these warm-season vegetables will have many insect and disease problems in the fall that may require some means of control. Most commercial growers apply a fungicide and an insecticide treatment on a weekly basis. To reduce your pesticide use, you may just have to let the pests have their share of the crop and learn to live with a few imperfections.

However, there is a new problem with all cucurbits (cucumbers, cantaloupes, squash, and watermelons) called resistant downy mildew because it is very difficult to control. All a homeowner can really do is spray weekly with a fungicide that contains chlorothalonil or mancozeb and lists the desired crop on the label.

Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.

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