How dare I even mention the “F word” on a day like today! How can I be thinking of fall?! It’s sunny, hot, and I’m sitting poolside with an icy cocktail…looking at a winter seed catalog from Territorial Seed and dreaming about fall gardening. Mr. President says I’m not very good at forethought since I will wait until I’ve squeezed out the last pea-sized dollop of toothpaste from a tube before I think to buy more. But as a gardener, it’s important to always be thinking ahead because nature takes time to make fresh food.
Many people put their gardens to bed after the summer season and an abundance of tomatoes, squash, beans, cucumbers, and melons. But fall is a wonderful time for gardening because many of summer’s worst garden pests and plant diseases are much less troublesome and the cooler weather is more pleasant for working outdoors. I’ve heard that fall gardening is addictive!
Waiting much past mid-summer to can make it too late to start certain long crops like cauliflower and cabbage. So, I’ve already started ordering seeds, planning and planting my fall garden in hopes of enjoying a few more weeks or months of fresh food this year. It’s my dream to live more self-sufficiently. One day, I hope to hone my fall gardening skills so I can harvest fresh greens through most of the winter. This year, it’s my goal to at least grow my own lettuce for a great salad on Thanksgiving.
Fall gardening tips
- Start thinking about your fall garden in mid-June. Map out where you can plant fall crops in your existing garden depending on what space will be available in August, September and October.
- Perfect crops for fall gardening in most areas include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, lettuce, spinach, bok choy, arugula, chard, radishes, corn salad or mache, Brussels sprouts, and carrots.
- It can be a challenge to decide what to plant where when you have longer-maturing crops like eggplant and tomatoes that could be productive up until your first frost and taking up space in the garden. You won’t be able to plant your cauliflower or cabbage there, for instance, because these also take a long time and need lots of space. Instead, underplant with herbs like chervil or cilantro that can get established before it’s time to pull out the tomatoes and eggplants.
- Start crops like cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli indoors under a grow light about 12 weeks prior to your first frost date. Transplant them into the garden at about 6-8 weeks and watch for cabbage moths. They lay their eggs on these crops and then the larvae, these little green caterpillars, suck the life out of your plants. If you see damage, look on the undersides of the leaves and simply pick off the worms. These caterpillars make great treats for backyard birds or chickens.
- If you want to convert useless lawn into productive beds for growing food, fall is a perfect time to try sheet mulching or lasagna gardening so your beds will be ready to plant by spring.
- Fast-growing greens like lettuce and spinach can be sown directly into the garden in late summer. Plant a few successive sowings for a longer harvest period and try greens that are well-suited to cold weather like corn salad or ‘Arctic King’ butterhead lettuce.
- Consider installing hoop houses – temporary covered shelters – in your garden or over raised beds to protect crops from plummeting temperatures and prolong your harvest well into winter.
- If you are too tired after a busy summer gardening season, at the very least, plant some garlic this fall. You’ll be glad you did!
Sites That Link to this Post
- Fresh Food Longer: Extend Your Gardening Season - Tomato Envy : Tomato Envy | August 29, 2014
- Winter Vegetable Garden Update - Tomato Envy : Tomato Envy | November 22, 2014