It’s late summer and many amateur gardeners may be ready to pack up their gear. Those of you who are fans of vegetables like spinach, kale, cabbage and carrots, should think twice before hanging up your gardening gloves. Many vegetables, especially cruciferous ones like broccoli and cabbage, taste better as the weather begins to cool. Where the summer heat can cause a bitter yield, cooler temperatures produce fall vegetables with a sweeter flavor.
Planting a fall garden is not only a boon for your pantry; it helps to set your garden up for success in the upcoming spring. Many crops, like corn, can leave your garden with excess nitrogen in the soil. Fall crops, especially leafy greens, will help to absorb this excess nitrogen.
Before you begin to sow the seeds for your fall garden remember a few key factors. First, temperature is a factor that can affect the health of your seeds or transplants. Planting for fall harvest requires that seeds or transplants be started between July and September, depending on your climate and the crop. The temperature of your soil surface will be much warmer than the temperature of your garden soil in the spring. As a result, crops will require more watering than their spring counterparts. Irrigation systems are helpful for ensuring seedlings stay moist and healthy. If you are unable to install any kind of irrigation, it would be best to start your seeds somewhere else and transplant them, or purchase transplants from your local garden store.
Another thing to be conscience of is pest control. Insects, birds and other garden antagonists have been breeding all spring and summer, resulting in a bountiful population ready to devastate young seedlings. Careful planning will ensure that your crop makes it to harvest. Consider introducing positive insects, like ladybugs, into your garden earlier in the season. For more non-chemical pest control tips, visit eartheasy.com.
Early frosts are another environmental factor that can wreak havoc in a fall garden. This can be easily remedied by paying attention to the local weather report and covering plants with burlap, plastic or even an old blanket. This will protect your tender plants. Knowing what zone you live in can help you anticipate when killing frosts will arrive in your region. The United States Department of Agriculture has an easy to use tool for determining what planting zone you live in.
If you are a first time fall gardener and need some inspiration, here’s a list of our favorite vegetables to plant: