tips + how-tos

planting a fall garden

kale-in-double-dug-bed

The summer heat may be beating down on you, but it is actually time to start planning your fall garden. To have a thriving fall garden, it is best to start your plants in the later months of the summer.

In our garden, we have long since said goodbye to our spring greens, our early summer potatoes, and so many other crops that just don’t take the heat of the summer. While summer may bring a bounty of vegetables (sometimes so many we can’t even keep up), the often forgotten fall crops can feed you all through the winter. What’s even better is that most fall vegetables do not require much effort to store, so you can go ahead and pack up that canner for the winter and take a break from all the hard work after the harvest.

broccoli carrot fall harvest

fall harvest

What we call fall vegetables are merely vegetables that may not tolerate the summer heat but instead do very well in cooler weathers. Many will even grow well into the winter becoming tastier with a touch of frost here and there.

Because of the short season, the timing of your plantings is a crucial element in the success of a fall garden. Determine when the average first freeze during the fall is, and plan your plantings to allow your garden time to grow, mature, and be harvested. The National Climate Center has very accurate frost information here. I also like using Dave’s Garden who break down the dates by percentage.

fall vegetable Kale

Fall Planting Date Formula

Here is my simple formula for figuring out when to plant for fall:

Days to Maturity + Average Harvest Period + Fall Factor (about 2 weeks) + Frost Tender Factor* (2 weeks) = Days to count back from average first frost date.
 
Days to Maturity – the number of days a crop takes to begin producing
Average Harvest Period – the average number of days a crop produces
Fall Factor – a factor for the potential of unexpected cool weather in the fall
Frost Tender Factor – applied to the crops that are sensitive and/or killed by frost. These are crops like beans, corn, cucumbers, and squash that must mature weeks ahead of the frost to get a full harvest from them.

Vegetables for fall

Crops

Days to Maturity

Cold Hardiness

Arugula
20-40
Survives light frost
Basil
30-60
Killed by frost
Beans – Bush
45-65
Killed by frost
Beets
50-60
Survives high 20’s
Broccoli and broccoli raab
50-70
Survives light frost
Brussel Sprouts
90-100
Hardy to 20
Cabbage
50-90
Hardy to 20
Carrots
85-95
Hardy to 20
Cauliflower
60-80
Survives light frost
Chard
40-60
Survives light frost
Cilantro
60-70
Survives light frost
Collards
40-65
Hardy to 20
Cucumbers
40-50
Killed by frost
Daikon radish
60-75
Hardy to 20
Dill
50-60
Survives light frost
Garlic
Harvest the following July
Winters over
Kale
40-65
Hardy to 20
Kohlrabi
50-60
Survives light frost
Lettuce
40-60
Survives light frost
Mustard greens
30-40
Survives light frost
Onions
130-150
Survives light frost
Peas
70-80
Survives high 20’s
Radishes
30-60
Until soil freezes
Rutabaga
90-100
Hardy to 20
Spinach
35-45
Survives light frost
Squash (summer)
50-60
Killed by frost
Turnips
50-60
Survives light frost

 

Grow your soil

Before planting up your fall garden, you must prepare your soil for another season. Clean out the remains of any of the warm seasoned vegetables. Any diseased plants should be thrown in the trash, burned, or buried deep underground. These may overwinter disease or insect pests, so you don’t want them hanging around your garden. All of the rest of the dead or unproductive plants can be composted or tilled back into the soil.

The fall is the perfect time to assess and amend the state of your soil’s health. Spread a thick layer of compost around the garden to replenish many of the nutrients and help build your soil’s health. It’s best to add compost at the beginning of every season to give a boost to both the plants and the soil.

If you have no plans for fall vegetables or have just waited too long to get them started, get your soil ready for spring by planting a cover crop, also known as a green manure. Planting a cover crop keeps the garden weed-free, prevents soil erosion, adds organic matter to the soil, and replenishes nutrients. It’s as simple as sowing very thickly, allowing them to grow to maturity, and tilling them back into the soil before they begin to flower and seed. You can read much more in-depth about cover crops here.

Fall vegetables can be some of the tastiest treats of the year. There is something about a touch of frost on so many vegetables that just make the flavor explode. Who wouldn’t want to keep picking that fresh deliciousness even when the temperatures cool off?

Stand by, we have a lot more gardening to do…

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