If you are thinking of starting a fall garden, now is the time to start preparing. Many fall vegetables will need to be started indoors where temperatures are cooler to allow them to germinate properly. And depending on your zone, you may need to act fast to get those seeds started in time to harvest a fall crop.
Benefits to fall gardening
There are lots of benefits to gardening in the fall. The weather is cooler, so you aren’t working in the heat of the summer. Also pests tend to be less active in the fall. The cooler weather also makes some vegetables sweeter. Kale and brussels sprouts in particular tend to be sweeter after a frost.
Fall gardening problems
One of the difficulties of a fall garden is that you can’t plant warm weather crops. Tomatoes and peppers will not do well as both vegetables like hot weather and will not tolerate any amount of frost. However there are many vegetables that actually do better in cooler weather.
Crops that do well in a fall garden
Any type of cole crop will usually do well in a fall garden. This includes most cruciferous vegetables like broccoli. Greens, such as spinach, chard, turnip greens and collards, typically do very well. Even lettuce can handle a light frost.
While this list is not all-inclusive, it should give you an idea that fall gardening is not limited to one or two crops.
Crops to plant for a fall harvest
- brussels sprouts
- greens such as mustard and collard
At one time or another I have planted almost all of these crops in my garden and most have done extremely well in the fall.
When to start your fall garden
To determine when to start your fall garden, you first must decide whether you are going to start plants from seed or buy transplants from the store. Starting plants from seed is more time consuming, but its cheaper and you have much more variety to choose from. You will also need to figure your first frost date. Here is a chart that can give you an idea of when your first frost occurs.
If starting from seed, look at your seed packet and determine how many days until harvest. Count backwards from your first frost date that number of days plus an additional 2 weeks. This allows time for slower growth due to cooler weather and gives you time to harvest before a hard freeze sets in. For instance, my first frost date in my Zone 7 garden according to the chart is October 16-31. So if my seed packet (in this case, Prizehead lettuce) says I need to allow 48 days to maturity, I need to count backwards from October 16. Counting back 48 days gives me August 29. I also need to allow 2 more weeks for slower growth so I am now back to August 15. This is when I need to start planting my seeds so I can get a decent harvest in before frost.
If you are buying transplants from the store, you don’t need to start quite as early. Most plant tags will tell you when to plant the vegetables to optimize your harvest. If not, this article will help you figure out the best time to plant your chosen vegetable.
Gardening in the fall is usually much more pleasureable than gardening during the hot summer months. Cooler weather and a hint of a fall breeze always makes me want to get outside and enjoy the day. By planting a fall garden I can also enjoy fresh food a bit longer.
Do you plant a fall garden? If so, what do you plant? I would love to hear all about it.