We are at the peak or slightly off-peak for summer and that means it is time to prepare our fall garden if we’re going to do one. If you start much later than August, you risk your crops not maturing in time for the really cold weather.
There are great benefits with a fall garden. Autumn crops are a great way to supplement your warm-weather harvests and have that little bit of extra for your winter months. In general, you won’t fight the weather like you do in the summer. Many common garden pests are winding down with the end of summer. The crops also tend to hold quality longer than the hot months so you get a little extra time to harvest and can your produce.
So what do we want to do to get ready?
First, make sure if you have summer crops where you want your fall garden, be sure to harvest that in time to get stuff out of the way. The most critical part a fall garden is getting stuff in the ground so you get a good growing season out your land.
Second, plant the right things. Greens are always a good bet because they mature so quickly. Next, you can do scallions and parsley so you have plenty of those lovelies for spicing up winter meals. Finally, get in carrots, beets, onions and broccoli because that’s going to give you plenty of raw material for awesome soups. For those so inclined, collard greens work great here too.
Make the Soil Work For You
You may be planting in an area that was recently cleared during harvest. That means the previous plants were sucking up all of the nutrients. Now may be a good time to fork in some compost and give everything a light turn. If you’ve been maintaining your compost pile throughout the earlier part of the year, you’ll have a nice batch ready to fold into your fall plot.
When Should I Get My Fall Garden Started?
This is pretty straightforward. Once you’ve decided what you’re going to grow, find out the time to maturity for each seed. Next, find out what your agricultural zone is. There will be an estimated first frost date. Depending on whether the crops you’ve chosen are frost resistant or not, you just work back from that first frost date with the number of days your seeds need to mature. Because those are estimated dates, you might want to build in a couple of weeks just in case. Remember, most of the crops above will hold quality better during cool weather so it’s better to error on the side of early unless your seeds really don’t tolerate heat.
Other Tips for Fall Gardens
Garlic is interesting. You can actually plant that after the first frost to be harvested the next summer. Go with a raised bed and plant your cloves before the soil freezes but after things really cool off.
Carrots that are harvested after the first frost are often sweeter than when harvested before.
Next up, we need to know how to can this stuff. But that’s a different post. Happy gardening!