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Fall Garden Planning – To Ensure A Great Season Get Started Now!

Its coming to the end of summer and a little planning and thinking through now of what you would like to be eating in the next season or 2 will make the world of difference to your ready supply of vegetables.  Fall gardening produces a huge variety of delicious vegetables which will last well into winter.  If you can get the plot ready for these cool-weather varieties you will find that there will be an abundant supply in the fall harvest.

As with any season, think about what you and your family enjoy eating and what grows well in your area.  If you start the seedlings or seeds off now they will benefit from the warmth of the summer soil and grow fast!  Don’t forget to water them though and a bit of mulch that  you keep damp will help no end!  Choose seedlings that will do well in fall – usually these are greens and vegetables like lettuces, carrots, spinach, cauliflower, kale, radishes and broccoli.  The list is longer than this, but it gives you an idea…  If you a starting broccoli or cabbage off from seeds, you might want to germinate indoors as it could still be quite hot.

Where you are is important – if your winter is mild, or you get a lot of rain then you need to think about the best vegetables that will grow well and how they grow.  For example…

If you garden where winters are mild, you can grow all of those crops plus heat-lovers. “Here, we set out tomato transplants in late August,” says David Pitre, owner of Tecolote Farm, an organic farm near Austin, Texas. Pitre plants okra, eggplant, peppers, winter squash, cucumbers and potatoes in August and September for winter harvest. In warm climates, wait to plant cool-weather crops until after temperatures cool—in late September or after.

Fall is also prime garden season in the Pacific Northwest, where abundant rain and cool (but not frigid) temperatures are ideal for growing brassicas, root crops and leafy greens planted in mid- to late summer. The hardiest of these crops often hang on well into winter if given protection such as row covers.

To determine starting dates for your fall garden plants, check the “days to maturity” in the seed catalog or on the seed packet. Add an extra week or two to factor in fall’s shorter day lengths, which delay plant maturity. Then to determine your ideal planting date, count backward, subtracting the days to maturity from your average first fall frost date (find yours at the National Climatic Data Center).

Because you’re likely planting fall crops in soil that has already fed a spring planting, replenish beds with organic fertilizer and/or compost before planting. If autumn and winter weather in your area is wetter than in summer and you have clay-heavy soil, you might also want to use soil to build planting beds higher than the surrounding ground to help improve drainage. And, if your soil requires amendments to adjust its pH (you can determine this with a soil test, available at garden centers), add a dose of them before your fall planting.

Keep plants growing strong as temperatures drop by giving them a midseason nutrient boost. You can make a foliar fertilizer by mixing 1 tablespoon each of fish emulsion, seaweed and molasses in a gallon of water, then spraying it on leaves, says Carol Ann Sayle, co-owner of Boggy Creek Farm in Austin, Texas. Elizabeth Keen of Indian Line Farm simply feeds plants compost. “We’ve found the best time to apply compost to the soil around the plant’s base it is when it’s a ‘teenager’—about four weeks after transplanting.”

A final tip for your most bountiful fall garden: Harvest early and often. Frequent cutting stimulates continual new growth and gives you plenty of chances to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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Photo by hardworkinghippy


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