Watermelon time is time to sow
By Jimmy Williams
Posted: Wednesday, August 17, 2011 12:50 pm
Watermelons are in.
Roger Van Dyke, a Clifty community contemporary of my mother, always had the best ones I can remember. We would go out dove hunting on a hot September day, and return to his house for slices of Arkansas Black melons, deep green on the outside and just as deep red inside. No sweeter melons have I ever sampled.
Sammy Wynn is his modern day equivalent, with a good crop this year of Arkansas Blacks.
It so happens that watermelon time here just about coincides with the leaning forward toward fall vegetable plantings. If you haven’t already, then you should very soon get those turnips sown if you want nice size roots. Most people like to get them in before Aug. 1 but there is still time. For greens only you can wait even later.
Other leaf crops, i.e. lettuce, spinach, etc., can also go in now, though they sprout better with cooler soil temperatures that come later.
One way to overcome the hot soil problem is to sow the seed, water lightly, then cover the planting with boards, plywood, old carpet or other thick material (not plastic!) that will keep the soil relatively cool until germination starts. Then the covers can be removed. A daily (or twice daily) misting will keep some coolth in after removal of the covers.
Broccoli, cabbage, collards and cauliflower generally do better planted in fall rather than spring.
The nights are growing progressively cooler, which those crops like.
The big enemy of fall planted cold crops is, however, cabbage worms, which are more numerous now than in spring. Regular dusting with BT or Sevin will thwart them, but it must be re-applied after any substantial rain.
In the days when I raised vegetables (before deer became intolerable), fall broccoli often yielded until Christmas in mild autumns, and a few years even all winter.
I remember one particularly good season for broccoli and Savoy cabbage, the kind with crinkled leaves, which takes longer to start bearing but will take more cold.
Spinach is particularly cold hardy, and fall-sown spinach often goes all winter. It can be protected with row covers in extreme weather, and such a technique will keep you in spinach when temperatures drop to zero.
Mike and Judy Garner had excellent spinach last winter, even without protection, and we had flat out zero a couple of nights.
Radishes are ridiculously easy, and not fit to eat as far as I am concerned. Their only virtue is quick maturity, as little as four weeks from sowing to an edible root. I’d rather have watermelon.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 8.16.11