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Think cool; it’s time for autumn’s leafy greens

With summer on the wane, it is time to think about fall gardens. And for those of you devoted to food gardening, consider an array of leafy greens.

This group of vegetables is perfect for Piedmont gardens as days grow shorter and temperatures drop. They are easy to grow, produce a lot of food and are nutritious. You probably already know some of the best, such as leaf lettuce and spinach. Some of the others are collards, arugula, mustard and turnips, all well suited to growing in autumn.

Only a few steps are needed to get your fall garden going:

Seize the space. Dig up the area and add compost. You don’t need a huge amount of space; strips a foot wide or small blocks of garden will work. Leafy greens depend on nitrogen; apply fertilizer as you prepare the soil. and get ready to plant.

Expect to water. The midday sun remains hot well into September. Seeds and seedlings require attention to prevent drying out, which can set them back or be their ruination.

Beware of pests. A wet summer aided slug populations. And since vegetable gardeners tend to use mulch to suppress weeds and moderate the soil temperature, slugs may be hiding there. They will feast on young, soft foliage of leafy greens. They can do huge damage overnight to seedlings and even to more mature plants. Watch for their slimy trails and take action with commercially made traps – or set out a saucer of beer to lure them to death by drowning. Various caterpillars can be fought with Bacillus thuringiensis, which is safe with edible plants.

Choose some seeds and some plants. While any vegetable crop can be grown from seeds, some are much easier to grow from young plants you buy at garden centers. Even easy crops such as leaf lettuce and spinach are available in tiny pots. Some little pots are biodegradable, so you can set the whole thing in the soil for easy planting.

The advantages of choosing seeds are the greater range of choices and the larger number of plants you can grow. Beginners who are eager to experiment and who don’t have a lot of space should start with plants.

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