I know our summer garden is still in full swing, but before you know it’s time to start planning for your fall garden. Early August is the perfect month to start planning and preparing your fall garden.
As B. Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” I do not want yours and my fall garden dreams to fail, so here are just a few things a beginner gardener needs to know.
Caleb and I haven’t done a fall garden in about 5 years, so I am really excited to do one this year. I think this will be so fun to document our journey to do this together. I’ll do my best to post updates as we go!
We got pretty good at growing tomatoes this summer and I am looking forward to taking my green thumb outside again for our fall garden.
After several days of research here are some beginner fall gardening tips I am going to follow over the next few months.
Plan Ahead for Fall Gardening
Timing is key for fall vegetable gardening, and there are many factors that dictate the ideal time for planting. Fall gardening is best suited for plants that grow quickly and are ready to harvest in a matter of a few weeks since cold weather can be unpredictable.
Find your local first frost date estimate, and use the seed packets’ harvest times to work backward from there. For example, spinach tends to be ready for harvest in 4-6 weeks, so plan to plant it at least 6 weeks before that first frost date to ensure that you will have spinach to pick before too much cold weather hits.
What Should I Grow?
Vegetables and herbs that do well in cooler seasons include the following:
- Leafy greens like kale, collard greens, lettuce, and mustard greens
Prepare Your Fall Garden
Before you plant your fall seeds or transplants, it’s important to clear away plants that are no longer producing fruits or vegetables. This is a crucial step in fall vegetable gardens, as this ensures all the water and nutrients you provide to the new seeds won’t be stolen by older plants and weeds. Speaking of weeds, remove as many of those as you can now too.
Fall plants thrive in refreshed, nutrient-rich soil, so feel free to add some compost to the soil as well.
When Should I Plant My Fall Garden?
Early to mid-August is the best time to plant your fall veggies and herbs.
For fall vegetable gardening, you can use seeds, transplants, or a combination of both! If you live in a hotter climate, cool-season fall transplants may do better than seeds, as they can grow during their most vulnerable stages in cool conditions.
If you decide to go with seeds, try planting them just a bit deeper in the soil because it’s slightly cooler about an inch further in the ground.
Pamper Your Plants
Now that everything is planted, garden maintenance becomes the name of the game. A common rule for fall gardening states that fall plants do well with about one inch of water per week, but this can vary depending upon local weather conditions and temperatures.
Also, be sure to look for signs of pests and diseases that can be handled right away when they’re a small problem to avoid bigger issues down the line. Fall gardens are generally less susceptible to pests like summer gardens, so this isn’t usually something to worry much about.
If there is a chance for overnight frost, you can cover your plants with a tarp or an old sheet to keep them cozy and protected. Although, most fall veggies can handle cooler temps than we may think!
Harvesting Your Fall Garden
Each fall crop has a relatively predictable lifespan, meaning that you can approximate how long it will take to reach harvestable size. The lifespan of a crop is usually defined by the phrase “days to maturity” which should be listed on the seed package or the plant tag.
Days to maturity will vary a bit by environmental conditions, but these numbers should be fairly accurate. As a general rule, you should plan your planting so that the crops have time to reach maturity before the first frost. I use Farmer’s Almanac to find our frost dates.
Once my vegetables are ready to be picked, I am looking forward to grabbing a basket and collecting my bounty! I can’t wait to sautee my collard greens, roast beets, or toss together a hearty salad from a variety of pickings.
There are some incredible books, sites, and youtube channels out there for gardening beyond the traditional summer garden.
They go into much deeper detail than I can here – after all, I am just a beginner too!
- Oak Abode: My friend Kathleen and her husband Ian are incredible gardeners! Go check them out on YouTube and on their blog.
- The First-Time Gardener: Growing Vegetables by Jessica Sowards
- Vegetable Gardening for Beginners: A Simple Guide to Growing Vegetables at Home by Jill McSheehy
- Shifting Roots: My friend Kristen helps new gardeners learn to grow their own vegetables and beautify their yards. Go check out her blog, she is truly amazing!
If your fall garden doesn’t yield as much as you had hoped, don’t fret. Gardens can be finicky, and there are numerous factors that can affect their outcome. There is always next year!