Issue: September 2005

September's a Sweet Time for Crops

Cool September evenings are a great time to plant and harvest many vegetable and fruit crops.

Cool weather slows growth and helps retain more sugar in cole crops such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts and kale, giving them a sweeter taste. Slower growth also reduces cabbage cracking caused by rapid growth on hot summer days, giving gardeners a much firmer head of cabbage.

Cooler weather makes raspberries and strawberries sweeter. Everbearing raspberries like Heritage and Autumn Bliss produce fruit from late summer to the first frost of fall, resulting in sweeter fruit and less sunscald than traditional varieties that produce fruit in summer. Everbearing and day-neutral strawberries such as Tristar and Fern will also produce a fall crop of sweet berries. June bearers will only produce a crop in spring, but everbearing and day-neutral varieties produce crops in both spring and fall.

Cool weather sweetens apples. It improves the fruit's red color and lengthens the typical tapered end of a Delicious apple.

Plant leaf lettuce, spinach and peas in early September for a fall crop. Keep seeds moist to insure good germination. Frequent but light irrigation during the hot part of the day early in the season will help reduce soil temperatures, improving germination. Place spunbonded row covers on wire hoops over plants in late fall to provide frost protection and extend the growing season.

Fall is the best time to plant garlic. Segmented garlic bulbs are made up of cloves. Separate cloves from the bulb and plant 1-3 inches deep and 3-6 inches apart. Like tulip bulbs, cloves will develop root systems in the fall with leaves emerging in spring. Harvest mature bulbs in late June or early July. Before planting, add phosphorus fertilizer to improve root production. Apply nitrogen fertilizer in early spring for good foliage development.

Fall is also a great time to plant fruit trees. Like garlic, incorporate phosphorus fertilizer into soil to encourage root growth. Apply nitrogen fertilizer next year.

Dig up red raspberry suckers and transplant them to another area of the garden. Separate suckers from the mother plant and include a root ball of soil to protect feeder roots. Propagate black raspberries and blackberries by bending over a new cane produced this year and burying the tip of the cane in the soil near the mother plant. Firm the soil around the tip of the cane and water. Dig up rooted tips in the spring, sever them from the mother cane and transplant them to another area of the garden.

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For more gardening information, visit New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service publications world wide web site at

George W. Dickerson, Ph.D., is is a horticulturist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.