Starting A Fall Garden for a Late Autumn Harvest
When the thermometer is reaching its peak, warm weather crops such as tomatoes, squash, snap beans, garden peas, and corn are almost ready for harvesting and starting a fall garden may be the last thing on your mind. However, August is the best time to plant cool weather crops such as beets, red cabbage, broccoli, kale, and carrots.
By counting back weeks from your first expected frost in the fall and taking time to plant seeds, you can end up with some delicious fall vegetables that are sweet and crispy. Check here for a guide on how far back to plant different kinds of fall crops.
Sowing Your Seeds
Rather than planting your seeds directly into the ground, it’s best to sow them into flats that contain individual cell packs. You can move them to areas where it’s partially shaded or place them in front of a sunny window.
You get the best results if you use a commercial seed starting mix as it contains the type of nutrients that work best for seeds. Cover your trays with plastic wrap so that it creates an environment that’s ideal for helping your seeds sprout. The key for germination to begin is to ensure that the soil is kept moist. If you are dealing with 90-degree weather, you may have to water your seeds more than once a day.
The end of July is probably the latest you want to wait to start your seeds. However, if you are in the southern region of the United States, you can get away with planting your seeds through August.
Soil And Trying New Crops
If you have time to introduce compost or other nutrients to your soil before starting a fall garden, it will help, but this step isn’t required. Once you have two leaves on each plant, you can move them out of the flats.
Look for areas in your garden where you can squeeze these plants in. You can even plant them around summer crops that are still producing. The shade from existing plants will help keep your new seedlings cooler until they get established. If your summer crop had any type of disease or your plants are declining, remove them and replace those areas with your new crop of plants.
Consider planting new crops that you haven’t tried before such as turnips, mustard greens, and arugula. These rustic greens taste great, and they also help shade out weeds as their broad leaves take up large amounts of space. By placing leafy greens in areas where you had your spring crop, they’ll use the nitrogen that’s left over from the organic matter present in the soil.
Keep Your Plants Watered
Fall crops need plenty of water. Even short periods of dry soil will slow the growth of your vegetables. The best way to make sure that your new crops stay wet is by installing a soaker hose in your garden.
If you don’t have time to sow your seeds into flats and move them later, planting them straight in the ground is fine too. Just remember, germination is quicker for leafy greens like turnips, collards, Chinese cabbage, and mizuna. Root vegetables like carrots and beets will take more time to get started. This means that you need to keep their surrounding soil moist for a longer period of time.
Defending Against Pests
Garden pests such as grasshoppers and cabbage worms are your worst enemy. They are destructive and can wreak havoc on your garden. If they appear, you’ll want to do all that you can to get rid of them. You may want to use row covers to cover your seedlings once they are planted in your garden.
When starting a fall garden, it is best to slowly introduce your seedlings to direct sunlight if they were started indoors. Transplants are fragile for the first week. When you move them from flats to your garden, try to do this on a cloudy, overcast day.
If you continue to water your plants, in a couple of months you will have fresh produce to harvest. You can prepare these vegetables in a variety of ways or freeze them so that you can enjoy homegrown produce all winter long.