Summer is ending, the days are growing shorter, and temperatures are dropping, but there’s still a little time left for the home gardener to begin Planting a Fall Vegetable Garden.
Just think about it; no bugs, no weeds, no watering, no sweat… fall is the perfect season for planting delicious home-grown vegetables.
Planting Cold Hardy Vegetable Crops
The key is to plant veggies that will grow quickly and are tolerant of colder weather conditions and shorter day lengths. Your best opportunity for success at this point will come from growing frost hardy leafy greens like kale, collards, mustard, spinach, and even lettuce. Visit the following link to read about a few popular winter vegetables if you’re interested in ideas on which crops will grow well during autumn.
You may be able to find transplants for fall cole crops like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts for sale at your local greenhouse or garden center. Most of my fall vegetables were started indoors six weeks ago and transplanted into the garden last week. I also direct seeded turnips and rutabagas into the raised beds around the beginning of August.
Additional seeds of leafy greens were planted this past weekend, and I intend to plant more seeds for crops of lettuce, arugula, cress, mache, and spinach over the next week or so. The majority of the veggies are growing out in the open but I also will be using cold frames to stretch the season even further.
Preparing the Garden Beds for Fall Growing
Raised beds help to make the transition from summer growing into planting a fall garden smoother and quicker. The beds stay loose year round so there’s no need to get out the tiller or perform deep cultivation in between crops. Just remove any weeds, garden litter, or remains of the summer’s harvest.
Use a garden fork to break up the soil’s crust and to further loosen the top couple inches of the raised beds that will be planted with your fall vegetables. This summer I also incorporated a three-inch layer of mushroom compost into the raised beds before sowing and transplanting the fall crops.
Fall vegetable plants and leafy greens are more tolerant of this source of fresh nitrogen and won’t suffer with the problems that would be created for other vegetables like overly lush growth in tomato plants. The raised beds enriched with the mushroom soil will fertilize the fall vegetables, mellow over the winter and be conditioned for planting in early spring.
Timing the Fall Gardening Schedule
Many people assume that cold temperatures are the biggest deterrent to growing fall vegetables, but if fact the reduced amount of sunlight and shorter day lengths are a much greater handicap for producing vegetables into the fall and winter months.
The challenge for the fall garden grower is to time the plantings so that the vegetables grow rapidly during the ideal conditions of early autumn and are ready to harvest before the bitter cold arrives as winter takes hold of the garden.
It may require a little trial and error and judgment on your part to determine the best time to plant a fall garden in your specific growing region, but it’s better to plant too early than to get your crops in the ground too late. Record the dates that you planted, note the results as the fall crops mature, and adjust the timing in future seasons if necessary.
Making Plans for a Fall Vegetable Garden
For a general planting schedule or timetable, determine the first average fall frost date for your region and work backwards to determine the appropriate time to plant those winter vegetables. But keep in mind that the fall crops will grow and mature slower under the lower light conditions of autumn than they would if planted in the spring or summer.
If a particular crop requires eight weeks to mature, planting eight weeks before the average fall frost date in the case of frost hardy vegetables will give the crops plenty of time to mature since the plants will continue growing through the first frosts. Remember that it’s better to plant early and give the fall vegetable crops more time to mature than not enough.
For more information read the entry on planning the vegetable garden for strategies to help you think ahead during spring plantings and organize your garden layout in a manner that will make your gardening more productive, extend your growing seasons, and make it easier to grow vegetables when summer ends and the fall growing season begins.
Now that you’re ready to begin planting a fall vegetable garden, tomorrow I’ll post an entry detailing techniques for selecting, cultivating, and harvesting specific crops for growing fall vegetables.
Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts: