Fall Gardening Knowhow
Wow, we worked hard this spring getting the soil ready, setting starter plants and planting seeds in our garden. Now, we begin harvesting and enjoying the bounty of our labor. There is nothing better than homegrown fruits and vegetables. Enjoy!
So why plant a fall garden and start the process all over again?
As summer comes to an end and fall is approaching, it is time to begin thinking about a fall garden. Many gardeners don’t think about all the fresh and healthy vegetables available in your fall garden. You will be missing some of the best vegetables of the year if you fail to plant various greens, including turnips. Beans and Brussel sprouts do well later in the year as it begins to cool down. More about this later.
Some of the crops you plant may be ready to harvest in 35 to 45 days. There is something about vegetables grown in the fall. To me, they just taste better when the temperature begins to cool.
PLANNING A FALL GARDEN
What to Plant
Fall crops are made up typically of Brassica and Cucurbit family of vegetables. These vegetables include bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, mustard greens, and turnips. The cabbages grown in fall tend to be sweeter when grown during the colder months.
Cucurbit family members include watermelon, cucumber, melon, squash, pumpkin, winter squash, zucchini. Depending upon you planting zone, you could plant cucumbers in mid-summer to grow into the fall. Also, plant pumpkin and winter squash.
Other common fall crops are beets, lettuce, spinach, and peas. If you are Italian or just enjoy Italian food, you might want to plant some garlic.
When to Plant
In planning your fall garden,it is essential to know what will grow in your Hardiness Zone. To find your zone, searcch the internet for Hardiness Zone. You then can sellect seed or plants for your fall climate. Many nurserys will provide a list of vegetables planting times.
Before you plant …
Before starting your fall garden, find all the data you can about what and when to plant certain vegetables. The numbers you will want to know, how long does it take the seeds to germinate, how many days will it take the seeds to grow to maturity. And the average date of the first frost.
If you still have questions about dates and number of days, contact your state or county’s cooperative extension agency. They can provide you with printed information to cover any issue you might have. Most will have all of the data you need, posted on their website. Check it out. .
If you plan to plant the seeds indoors or in the soil, read the seed package for germination times. The package will also provide the days needed for the plant to fully mature and produce vegetables.
Days to Maturity
If you do everything correctly, your fall garden should mature before the first frost. Knowing how long the first frostgenerally takes can make or break your fall gardening experience.
Many a gardener have been very disappointed by an unexpected frost. Remember the frost dates are based upon averages. Depending upon this years weather, the mederiological office with the National Weather Serivce might come close to the date but as they say, “Close only counts in horseshoes.”
Another good source for your area might be the Old Farmers Almanac. They have been predicting the average frost date for many years and seem to be as reliable as any other source.
It can be very tricky in determining just how many days you have before a frost. Once you have all your data, you need to use your calendar and work your way back to the “Frost Date” for your area.
PLANNING A FALL GARDEN
Where to Plant
My only recommendation here is plant where your garden will receive the most sun light
Check the sunlight requirement on any plants you will grow. Most will require 6 to 8 hours of full sun. Most greens, beets and carrots will get by on only 6 hours. Leafy green such as lettuce and spinach will usually only require 4 to 5 hours.
HOW TO GROW FALL VEGETABLES
Soil Prep Checklist
Cleaned up the garden area, removing dead plants & debris?
Checked the soil’s pH?
Turned the soil & worked in a few inches of compost?
Added lime as needed?
Preparing the Soil
Once you’ve chosen a location for your second season garden, it’s time to prep the ground for planting.
If you’re planting a site previously used for spring vegetables, first remove the old plants, composting the ones that are disease free. Remove weeds and other debris as well.
Once your garden is weed free, break up the soil, working in about two inches of compost as you do so. Cultivate and fertilize to a depth of about 12 inches, especially if you plan to grow root crops like carrots and beets.
It’s also a good idea to check the soil’s pH. In general, fertile soil is only slightly acidic or neutral. You can do this with a home pH tester/testing kit or by sending a soil sample to a local lab for testing.
If your garden soil’s pH falls below 6, add lime as you’re cultivating, particularly if you’re growing broccoli or other Brassicas, which tend to develop clubroot root in acidic soil. (If rain is predicted, rather than working the lime into the soil, you can simply sprinkle lime over the area and let the rainwater wash it in.)
If you add manure to your garden soil, don’t add lime at the same time. When combined, lime and manure create ammonia and the resulting nitrogen is released into the soil.