Although the spring and summer months are great for gardening, they can be taxing on the gardener. I know that I've become spent trying to keep my garden watered in the scorching heat while troubleshooting problems as they arise, such as warding off harmful insects. On top of that, tracking each plant's harvest time can feel like the straw that broke the camel's back as it were. That is why I opt for a fall garden; the insect population is significantly lower and your plants don't risk drying-out as much. Of course, I continue to sow in the spring for a summer, but I get really excited for fall garden planning--and it's never too early to start.
Starting your fall garden is easier than you think! You just need to know a few vital tips to ensure that your efforts will pay off!
The first and most important point is . . .
KNOW YOUR FROST DATE!
- The success of your plants is very dependent on ideal conditions (or as close to ideal conditions as possible) during their growth stage and during their mature stage. It may seem contradictory, but cold-hardy vegetables need the warmth of the late summer/early fall to develop enough by the time winter arrives. The planting date is gauged by knowing the frost date for your area. For us, here in the west, we are about 17 weeks from the frost, and typically, planting time is 12 weeks from then--but it does vary. When you know the frost for your area, you can pin-point your sowing date by counting back the number of weeks that is recommended on your seed packet, which brings me to the next piece of info . . .
KNOW YOUR SEEDS!
- Understand that you won't be able to grow certain warm-season vegetables, such as peppers and tomatoes. There are numerous cold-hardy vegetables that are ideal for fall growth. Check the instructions that appear on the back of your seed packet. Oftentimes, it has all the info you'll need to calculate when exactly to plant. If they are not there, simply google your seed and variety. For example, Broccoli Waltham 29. It should be easy to find the vital pieces of information that you need. Or, you can just check our website: www.trueleafmarket.com
KNOW HOW MUCH TO WATER!
- It is essential to water fairly heavily when seeds are germinating in the waning late summer heat. The idea is you want to maintain a certain level of moisture in your soil. It should be moist to the touch but not soggy. As autumn arrives, you'll water less because temperatures drop. So, it is a balance of knowing how much water based on how hot it is--or more importantly how dry your soil is. Our best advice is the touch test; finger the soil an inch away from the plant--if it seems dry or dust give your plant a drink. Do this at least twice a day.
KNOW THE BENEFITS OF COLD!
- Cold hardy crops often benefit from the cold and frost in terms of developing flavor and texture in their edible form. It is notable in root vegetables, such as carrots, radishes, peas, beets, cabbages, broccoli, lettuces, and rustic greens, such as arugula and spinach. A quick detail: arugula has cover-crop properties. This means that if you allow it to grow on toward the end of the season until the frost kills it. What happens is that the organic matter breaks down and cycles the biomass back into the ground, which has numerous benefits for your soil for next spring’s garden.
Albeit, we can’t cover everything that goes into planting and maintaining a fall garden, but you must start somewhere. We hope that these simple yet essential pieces of information can help you feel more prepared and confident to dive headfirst into beginning your fall garden.