For many people, fall marks the end of the growing season. However, cool temperatures this time of year are ideal for growing fast-maturing cool-season vegetables such as lettuce and spinach. Enjoy a few homegrown late-season salads, even a few weeks past the first frost, by knowing what to plant and how to take care of your fall vegetable garden.
Time it Right
It’s vital to know when to plant your fall crops based on the first expected freeze date, which varies by location. This succession gardening chart helps you time your fall garden perfectly.
Prep the Garden
Before you plant a single seed, you need to make room by removing any plants that still remain from the spring growing season. Harvest the vegetables that are just now ready to pick and rip out plants that are no longer performing well. Remove any weeds that have sprouted as well. It’s also wise to work a little organic matter into the soil to help give your fall plants more nutrients, especially if your soil has a lot of clay.
Choose the Right Vegetables
The best plants to include in your fall garden go from seed to table in 40 days or less. With some plants, you might need to harvest vegetables when they’re a bit smaller than normal, but they’re still just as tasty! Your options include:
- Red radishes
It’s also worthwhile not just to choose plants for their speedy growth, but to select vegetables for their hardiness. Many vegetables can survive below-freezing temperatures if you care for them properly. In fact, many varieties even become sweeter when exposed to light frost. Normally, fall gardens last until early winter, but if you live in Zones 8-10, you can grow the following vegetables all winter long:
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens
- Green onions
- Swiss chard
Plant Your Garden
Use extra seeds from your spring planting to start your fall garden or purchase new ones. Since most fall vegetables need to be planted by late summer, it may still be a bit too hot outside. Consider starting your garden inside and transplanting seedlings outside when it gets a little cooler.
You can also simply plant your seeds deeper than you would if you were sowing in the spring. Just an extra inch or two of soil can provide additional moisture and coolness. Shorter days mean less sun exposure and a shorter growing window, so give your vegetables the best possible chance of success by following regular spacing suggestions and planting in full sun.
Care for Your Garden
In the early days of your fall garden, warm temperatures demand you keep your plants well watered. Water newly sewn seeds every day or two to keep the soil around them moist. Once established, provide a deep watering about once a week to help encourage strong root growth.
As the temperature cools, keep an eye on the weather forecast. If frost or snow is expected, cover individual plants with a pot. Cover larger plants or whole sections of your garden with an old bed sheet or blanket. Prevent covering your plants with plastic, which can actually cause more damage. A little added protection can allow your plants to continue growing past the first frost.
If you find your garden needs a little extra attention at the end of fall or the start of next spring’s growing season, contact The Grounds Guys® for help. Our services include weed control, soil cultivation, edge definition, raking and flower care.