The 3 P’S of Fall

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Vegetables: Planting time for cool season crops such as leafy greens is NOW. Direct seeding (planting seeds rather than using transplants) for crops such as mustard, turnip greens, and spinach as well as cabbage, Bok choy, kale and collards is often done in the fall. However, this planting method requires having adequate moisture available to for seed germination and to keep the seedlings growing well after germination. If you do not have the ability to keep seedlings watered, it would be wise to buy vegetable transplants from a local garden center. Vegetables that can be either seeded or planted by transplants include cauliflower and various lettuces. Broccoli does not do as well in the fall in our area as it does in the spring as it takes 70-80 growth days after transplanting, longer than other fall vegetables.

Other adjustments for fall planting include adjusting seed planting depth. Higher temperatures mean that good soil moisture levels are deeper than in the spring. In many cases, the planting depth may be 112 to 2 times as deep as for spring planting of the same crop.

Seeds of lettuce and spinach will not germinate if the soil temperature exceeds 85°F. You can provide a cooler environment for the area you seed by making a tent with a lightweight material such as burlap or row cover. This helps keep the soil cool and moist. This technique will be beneficial for vegetable transplants for the first few days after transplanting as well. Remove the shading material as soon as the seeds begin to germinate. Using a light mulch over the seed row will help lower the soil temperatures also. Remember many of the seeds are tiny so it must be a very light mulch.

Another vegetable that can be planted in the fall is asparagus. Asparagus crowns can be planted from mid-November through the end of March.

Herbs: Herbs that can be planted in the fall include cilantro, dill, parsley, and garlic. These herbs can be harvested all fall and into the winter. If the winter is mild, some may survive well into the winter. Garlic is planted by bulb mostly and planting dates range from mid-September through the end of November. It also can be harvested through the winter depending upon planting date.

Most vegetables and many herbs require 1 inch of water per week. It’s best to make a single weekly watering that penetrates deeply. Note that at first, young seedlings and germinating seeds may need more frequent, light watering. Do not allow seedlings to dry out. Watch for overwatering though as too much water results in damping off, a fungal disease that kills young plants.

Many fall maturing vegetables benefit from side-dressing with nitrogen before planting or at planting time. Without soil test results to follow, a general rule of thumb is to apply 3 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet at planting. Most leafy vegetables will benefit from an application of 3 ounces of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet at three and six weeks after planting.

Insects and diseases are usually more abundant in the fall. Be a good garden scout. Walk your garden at least every other day looking for pests and signs of disease. Remember to look beneath the leaves and at the soil level. Early detection is the key to swift control.

Astonish your friends by having fresh vegetables and herbs throughout the holiday season and possibly beyond. You can extend your harvest season by protecting your garden with a floating row cover. Floating row covers can be supported by stakes or wire to keep the material from directly touching the plants. Smaller gardens can protect individual plants by using milk jugs with the spout end removed or by water-holding walls created by filling empty milk jugs with water. Water heats as it absorbs solar energy during the day and slowly releases it as temperatures drop at night.

Fruit Trees: Planting fruit trees in the fall allows for winter root growth when soil temperatures are above 50 to 55°F. Stronger early root growth results in better tree growth during the tree’s first year after planting.

Bulbs: Fall is the optimum time for planting spring-flowering bulbs. The fall is also the best time for dividing and replanting crowded spring and summer flowering bulbs and other perennials. This allows roots to become established before the ground freezes.

Trees and Shrubs: Again, to obtain optimum root growth for most trees and shrubs, the best time to plant is the fall. Even though the portion of the plant above the soil line goes dormant in the winter, quite often the root system is still able to grow until the soil freezes. This allows the plant to become established before the next summer’s hot, dry conditions.

Cool Season Lawns: Cool season grasses such as tall fescue, fine fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial grasses should only be should only be seeded in the fall if at all possible. Cooler temperatures are required for seed germination and grass establishment. Often these grasses are blended for successful growth in specific situations. To learn what the best cultivars are for NC as well as complete fertilization schedules and other details for getting the most out of your lawn, come by the Davie Cooperative Extension Center at 180 S. Main Street, downtown Mocksville to get a copy of Carolina Lawns. You may also request that a copy is mailed to you by calling the office at (336) 753-6100 or find it online at After your lawn is established, mow it at 3.5”. Don’t “scalp” it putting unnecessary stress on the grass.


Known as the 3 D’s of pruning, the following can be pruned at any time of the year – dead, diseased and damaged plant material on shrubs and trees. Other commonly practiced types of pruning are heading back and rejuvenation. Heading back, which is trimming only short portions of branches that have grown too long, can be done in the fall on many shrubs and trees but consult your local Cooperative Extension Horticulture Agent for specific shrub recommendations. You may also refer to a comprehensive list of deciduous and evergreen trees, shrubs, and vines entitled How to Prune Specific Plants. For details on pruning times and types of pruning recommended, this resource is priceless. It can be found at or at the Extension Center.

Hold off on rejuvenating (cutting back large amounts of woody growth) shrubs and trees until plants are fully dormant in the winter.


Remember that fall is the perfect time for soil sampling. Save time and money by avoiding application of lime when it is not needed or using the incorrect fertilizer formulation on your lawn, vegetable or flower garden, woody ornamentals, and pastures. Overfertilization results in unnecessary chemical runoff into our sewers, creeks, streams and water systems.

Come by the Extension Center to get your free soil sampling supplies and instructions while soil samples are being analyzed for free. Fees will be charged December 1-March 31 so samples must be mailed by November 15th to ensure arrival before Dec.1st.

If you have difficulty interpreting the lime and fertilizer recommendations when you receive your soil report, please call your local Horticulture Extension agent, Pam Jones, for assistance.

Research the plants you would like to plant before planting. Cooperative Extension has many publications that can help you plan for optimum success. NC State has an incredible plant database as well as Extension at other land-grant universities such as Clemson and Virginia Tech. Plant variety recommendations, as well as planting times and harvest times from both universities, apply to many areas of our state.

Attend gardening programs in our area to learn more about gardening.


Sponsored by the Davie County Library in Mocksville and taught by local Horticulture Extension Agent Pam Jones as well as Davie County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers, a five-week gardening series will be held beginning Tuesday night October 3rd. Programs begin at 6:00 p.m. and last until 7:30 p.m. For more information and a list of topics, please contact Davie Cooperative Extension at (336) 753-6100 or the Davie Public Library at (336) 753-6030.


Applications are now being accepted for the early 2018 Extension Master Gardener Volunteer training. Contact the Davie or Yadkin Extension Centers for your application today. Applications are also downloadable from Come join a like-minded group of individuals who are passionate about learning more about plants, gardening, composting, wildlife, using fewer chemicals without compromising your vegetable harvest and environmental stewardship to name a few topics. Then use your knowledge to assist Extension in spreading the word about how to make Davie and Yadkin counties “greener” places to live.

The training class will be held January 31 – Mid-May 2018. I am seeking Davie and Yadkin County residents who are interested in becoming certified Master Gardeners. Applications due date by January 19, 2018. Completed applications may be dropped off or mailed to either office. Office hours are 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday-Fridays. The Davie Extension office is located at 180 S. Main Street, Mocksville, 27028. Yadkin’s county Extension office is at 2051 Agricultural Way, Yadkinville, 27055. Class meeting sites will rotate between these two addresses.

The material was used from NC State Extension, Clemson University Extension, and Iowa State Extension in researching and writing this article.