Extreme Makeovers for Awesome Fall Vegetable Gardens

August 28, 2008

Would you like to try your hand at growing a fall veggie garden this year but aren’t quite sure how to manage it because your entire garden is currently over flowing with juicy tomatoes, sweet peppers and other summer crops that are still in full production?

That’s a dilemma that many backyard gardeners are faced with at this time of year and the solution often calls for some rather ruthless decisions and drastic actions… Do you pull out the old to make room for new crops, or do you delay planting and take the risk of running short of growing season to mature those cold hardy fall vegetables?

Growing into the Fall Gardening Season

After all, timing is critical and the changing seasons are unpredictable when it comes to forecasting frosts, hard freezes, and other weather conditions. Then there’s the matter of decreasing day lengths and the reduced levels of sunlight that are the major villains disrupting plant growth and creating a roadblock for the fall gardener.

Personally, mid to late summer is the time of year that I’m looking for excuses to free up garden space for my precious fall vegetable garden, and nothing is sacred that’s left growing in the summer beds. Any slackers, under performers, or has beens are destined either for the dinner table or the compost heap.

I can always count on the raised bed vacated by the gourmet garlic, shallots, and multiplier onions that are harvested each summer to free up gardening real estate in time for planting broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and collard transplants, but I need much more growing space for all of the other fall and winter veggies!

Tough Love Out there in the Vegetable Beds

Are those Royalty Purple Podded beans finished producing yet? Then it’s time for them to go! The Blacktail Mountain watermelons are early producers but will they really ripen additional melons this season? Nope, so they’re goners also! Is that Golden Zucchini plant wilting from a virus? Are the heirloom eggplants surrendering to the flea beetles? And is that a Cilantro plant that I see bolting and going to seed? Hmmm!

The heirloom tomato plants just hate when I look in their direction, but they are safe for at least a few more weeks, maybe longer since their territory is reserved for raising fall planted garlic, which won’t go into the ground until sometime in October. Although I could always put in a quick cover crop if the tomato plants decide to relax and stop ripening those tasty fruits any time soon.

Now is when all of the garden planning and management really pays off; grouping crops with similar growth habits and maturities together means that you can more efficiently clear and replant entire beds or sections of the garden rather than become handicapped with smaller growing areas scattered here and there.

The Joys of Growing Veggies during the Autumn Season

Fall really can be the ultimate season for enjoying the garden and producing loads of delicious winter vegetables. Fewer insect pests, decreased weed growth, pleasant temperatures, and a reduced need for irrigation create ideal conditions for both the garden and the gardener!

Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels Sprouts will only reach their full potential when raised as a fall crop in many growing regions. And others such as kale, collards, and parsnips will become sweeter and have their flavors enhanced following exposure to the seasoning effects of frost and cold weather.

It may prove to be a difficult choice for some gardeners to make, but I’ll gladly sacrifice a few weeks of declining production from selected summer crops in order to cultivate a fall garden that will be productive throughout autumn and right into the winter months.

This fall vegetable gardening article has been submitted as part of the Problogger Group Writing Project.

Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts:

  • Great tips!I used to not bother with fall vegetables, but have since learned that in my hot humid climate especially, fall is the best time to be growing.

  • lots of useful info – & great photos

  • Hello,
    You have a beautiful website! I got here from the Killer Blog title contest. I’ve stumbled you, too. We are about at the end of our growing season here in Arizona. I’ll miss it over the winter! Thanks for sharing all of your wonderful info. I’ll be back! G.

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  • Becky

    Is it too late to plant a fall crop of veggies?

  • Kenny Point

    Thanks for the comments, links, and the stumble. Becky, it’s not too late to start fall veggies but at this point I would stick with fast growing leafy greens like kale, collards, mustard, spinach, mache, winter cresses, and lettuce. You may also be able to coax a crop of radishes an turnips, then there’s garlic that can still be planted for next summer’s harvest.

  • Out here in the Sonoma Valley I grow all of my vegetables in raised beds about 4 feet across. Rather than grow in rows I use the intensive method of giving each plant enough room to do it’s own thing, growing room equivalent to it’s own footprint. Now that the summer season is coming to an end, I can reach into the middle of the bed, harvest each warm-season crop, and replace it with a cool-season vegetable that I can grow on to harvest in autumn or winter. The garden can look a bit disorganized at times, but it’s a kitchen garden and I’m always about harvesting for an upcoming meal. Most all of the plants get indivdual attention and as the evenings and days turn cool, I’m able to stay on top of each crop’s needs. I’ll use a cloche–just a simple movable greenhouse or tunnel or plastic storage box turned upside down–to shelter the plants who feel the chill. By the end of October, almost all of the warm-season crops are out of the garden and I can use larger tunnels to shield the whole of the bed through December, January and February. That way I have fresh leafy vegetables and root crops almost all winter.

  • Cameron

    Hi Kenny,
    Your garden looks lovely…next year I’ll plan for a fall garden. Thanks for the inspiration!

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