[Guest Post by Tim Graham]
Fall Is just around the corner, and many of our summer vegetable harvests have come to an end. We now have the opportunity to think of new vegetable gardening ideas. Rather than packing up the areas of our veggie gardens, we can take this opportunity to grow well into the fall.
This time of year is a little later than you would typically begin planting. Yet, if you are sure, and not susceptible to a significant frost in your area, you might be on your way to some more fresh veggies in the space of a couple of months.
When deciding to plant a fall garden and growing your own fall vegetables, you take the best estimate of the first frost and work backward to discover the ideal planting time. From here you simply check the packs of seeds and see how long they take from planting to harvesting.
Many expert gardeners will add a week or two to make sure they have enough time for harvesting. There are many vegetables that you can grow in the cool fall climate that also grow in the spring.
Here are nine vegetables to try that are well suited to be grown in your fall garden:
Broccoli – These should be planted ten weeks before your first frost date. This means they should be planted as the last hot days of summer are with us. Adding compost at this time will help them to remain cool. A fertilizer that is low in nitrogen should be used. Broccoli takes 70 days to mature.
Broad Beans – these should be sown in the autumn and will be ready to harvest with bumper crops in the following spring. One of the highest yielding is Aquadulce Claudia which has large, long pods and produces sweet, juicy beans.
Cabbage – These should be planted up to six-eight weeks before the first frost. If there is still some strong sun at the time of planting, they might require a little shade when they are young. Cabbages will need soil that is rich and fertile, so plenty of organic matter will be necessary along with adequate watering. As with broccoli, these take 70 days to mature.
Cauliflowers – These should also be planted six-eight weeks before the first frost. Sometimes they can be tricky to grow and require the same soil type as cabbage and broccoli. Nutrient-rich and moist is the secret to a good crop. Temperatures fluctuations can cause the heads to become undersized. These will mature in around 60 days.
Mustard Greens – Again, these should be sown six weeks before the first frost date. The seeds will germinate if the soil temperature is around 45 to 85F. The soil for these should be consistently moist which helps with rapid growth. Mustard greens take around 45 days to mature.
Radish – Radish can be planted as close as four weeks to the first frost. There are some radish varieties which are sown at six weeks and these go on to produce much larger radishes once they have matured. The soil in which the radishes are planted requires no feeding and should be fertile and well drained. Since they develop quickly, at 25 to 50 days, they should be checked frequently for any that are of an edible size.
Spinach – Spinach can be planted five weeks before the estimated frost date. You will find that a combination of short days and cool, moist weather helps the spinach rather than the warmer weather of spring. Once your spinach has been established, this can grow well into the winter months, and the plants will survive to temperatures as low as the 20’s.
The soil should be fertile to encourage quick growth and tender leaves. Spinach is quite quick to grow and is ready in around 45 days.
Garlic – Garlic can be planted in October or November while the soil temperature is still quite warm. This gives the bulbs time to create a good root system before the colder weather hardens the soil. As the weather gets colder, you should protect your garlic, with either cloche or horticultural fleece. Although you can plant from your store-bought garlic, it is advisable to use virus-free bulbs from your local garden center.
Shallots and Onions – These can handle some harsh weather with minimal protection. Ideally planted in raised beds and planted in the smooth soil around 1 inch apart. Mulching the ground will help with protection for when the weather is cold. The plants should also be covered by tunnels. This can keep the tunnel temperature 20 degrees higher than the ambient temperature.
How to Garden in the Fall
Apart from the colder weather that is approaching, what to plant in fall gardens is pretty much the same as in the spring but from one aspect. You have to work backward. You are no longer planting in the spring and waiting for the veggies to harvest. You have to take the first estimated frost date and work backward to see when you can sow your seeds.
All packs of seeds will contain this information from germination to maturity. Count backward and add two weeks to the total time as this covers the shorter days we have at this time of year.
Before planting anything, you should make sure your soil has been stripped of any crops which have already been harvested and are finished producing. Any weeds that have grown should be removed as they can leech the soil of valuable nutrients.
Adding compost at this stage can be beneficial as it will prevent the soil from becoming like clay.
When looking for seeds, you might find that you can pick up some bargains at garden centers and reduce your costs. One tip is, if you live in climates that have a hot summer, it might be worth starting your seeds indoors as they germinate and begin rooting better in cooler temperatures than outside if it is still hot.
If planting seeds directly outside, you can plant them an extra inch more in-depth as the soil at that level is a little moister and cooler. What vegetables to plant in the fall can depend on what will grow in your region based on the harshness of your winters.
Tim Graham writes over at YardandGardenGuru.com. He is passionate about home gardening and yard care, with over 30 years experience his passion is now helping people get out into the great outdoors.