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Irrigation Required For A Fall Garden
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- With no end in sight to the drought, the only people with successful gardens this fall will likely be those willing to trade high water bills for the fresh taste of homegrown vegetables.
Dr. David Nagel, Extension vegetable specialist at Mississippi State University, said fall gardens without irrigation have almost no hope across most of the state.
"If you don't have irrigation, don't even try to have a garden," Nagel said. "Even if you have a water source, it will be cheaper to buy your vegetables elsewhere than to supply all the water it will take to have a successful garden."
Until recently, most of Mississippi had received no rain for about a month, creating a water deficit of at least 4 inches. That means each square foot of garden needs 2 1/2 gallons of water just to catch up. Recent rains across parts of the state did not provide sufficient moisture.
"That's a lot of water, and this just gets you back to the starting place," Nagel said. "Gardens which get the needed water then can be planted, but they will continue to require at least half a gallon of water per square foot each week to survive."
Never allow runoff when supplying water to the drought-parched soil. Nagel recommended at least two slow applications, allowing time for the water to soak in. Nighttime temperatures have been cooling to the 60s, allowing fall gardens to survive if water requirements are met.
Gardeners willing to pay the price still have time to put in their plants. North of I-20, plants should be growing by Sept. 20, while gardeners south of I-20 have until Oct. 10. These dates apply to vegetables such as cucumbers, radishes, leaf lettuces, green beans, yellow squash and zucchini.
Freeze-tolerant vegetables such as greens, cabbage, broccoli and green onions can be planted even later.
Nagel said fall gardens have an advantage over spring-planted gardens in that the fruit grows under less stress from temperatures.
"Fall vegetables don't mature as quickly as those in summer gardens and they stay at the right stage to harvest for a longer time, " Nagel said.
Fall gardens do suffer more insect problems as these populations have had the summer to build numbers.
"Be aware and timely with your insect control measures," Nagel said.