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Tuesday, Sep. 16, 2014

Interest in fall gardening grows for area residents

Friday, September 12, 2008

Locally, vegetables can be harvested into October, November

SIKESTON -- David Renaud knows fall gardening isn't anything new. He's been extending his gardening season for 25 years.

"I've always had a garden because my parents had a garden," Renaud said. "And I've always enjoyed a garden. It was part of me to have this."

"This" is a two-acre vegetable garden located three miles south of Wyatt on Highway 77 in Mississippi County. R&R Vegetable Co. started as a means for Renaud's two teen-aged sons to earn some money.

"We grow all the vegetables you would grow in a garden, and our motto is 'Lettuce be your gardener,'" said Renaud.

Renaud puts together baskets of vegetables of whatever he's harvesting -- a pound or two of each crop -- for local residents who've called and placed an order to receive his produce periodically. He even delivers the fresh vegetable-filled baskets to their doorsteps.

"We started out with the boys when they were in the sixth and seventh grades. The boys said, 'We think we can sell this broccoli,' and they did sell it. Then we went a little further," Renaud explained about how his vegetable production started.

Vegetables included in his garden this year are green beans, lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, turnip greens, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. He's still harvesting the summer crop of peppers and jalapenos.

"We start in the spring and go all year-round," Renaud said.

Donna Aufdenberg, horticulture specialist for the University of Missouri Extension's Southeast Region, said fall gardens are fairly common in the region, especially with seasoned gardeners like Renaud.

"A lot of people get tired of gardening when summer ends. They're tired of tomatoes, peppers and weeds so they just ditch it," Aufdenberg said.

However, more and more people are coming around and realizing they can extend your season into October and November, Aufdenberg said.

"We're getting a lot more calls for fall gardening because produce is rising in price and gas prices are up," Aufdenberg said. "For less amounts of money, you can put out a garden versus going to buy produce off shelf."

Renaud agreed fall gardening isn't rare.

"The hard part is finding plants," he said.

The key with crops for fall gardens is to plant varieties with a short number of days for growing, Aufdenberg said.

"Instead of a variety with a growing period of 75 days, try one that has 30 or 40 days of growing," Aufdenberg said.

Much of the transplanting of vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli begins in July with the cut off dates to transplant being Aug. 15-30, depending on the crop, Aufdenberg said.

"People will plant a short-day corn in July and they will be harvesting fresh corn in the next couple of weeks. They will do tomato transplants in June and will be getting their second crop of tomatoes in next few weeks," Aufdenberg said.

For Renaud, the big difference between growing a garden in the summer and fall is there are more worms in the fall, he said.

"Watch for the worms. When you see the white butterfly flying around, there's a worm," Renaud said.

The average last day for fall gardens is the first frost date, which is Oct. 15, Aufdenberg said.

Fall gardening is also about tidying up landscape beds and putting things away for the winter, Aufdenberg said.

"It's a great time for composting and pulling dead plants out of the garden," Aufdenberg said.

Fallen leaves make great compost, Aufdenberg said. Collect the leaves and till them into the garden, she advised.

"A lot of people are mowing again and having heavy (overgrown) lawns. Grass clippings also make wonderful organic matter," Aufdenberg said.

And don't leave plants in the garden over winter, Aufdenberg said. Make sure to pull them out because insects will live through the winter with them, she said.

"If any diseases are on leaves, the disease spores will sit there and be ready to pounce on any plant when spring arrives," Aufdenberg said. "Don't forget to oil tools before putting away for the winter."

Tending to a garden is a lot of work -- regardless of the season, Renaud said.

"The vegetable company helped put the kids through school," Renaud said. "I had one child go to SEMO (Southeast Missouri State University), two to Murray (State University) and one to Yale (University). ... It's done its job."