Eager to put hot summer days behind you and get some fresh earth on your hands? Here are some tips on how to have a successful fall garden in our area:
1. Select a good garden site. Choose an area that receives at least 6 hours of direct sun daily. While root crops (carrots, turnips) can tolerate some shade, most others require full sun.
2. Prepare your soil. Clear out weeds & grass. Work in amendments as needed. While it would be best to have your soil tested, usually you can estimate with decent results (if you've had trouble with previous gardens we'd recommend a soil test certainly before spring). If your soil is heavy with lots of clay, loosen it up by blending in gypsum, compost peat, and other "light" ingredients. If it's very sandy, we usually recommend extra compost and planting mixes. Amendments such as compost (manure, peat, or household) and greensand are great for all soils. The ideal soil is organically enriched, loose, and well-draining. If planting in pots or large containers, choose a good quality potting soil. (Remember: POTTING soil/mix is for POTS only --- PLANTING mix or GARDEN SOIL is for in-ground beds.)
3. Plant the right way at the right time. Warm-season veggies are susceptible to frost damage therefore should be transplanted soon, so that you can harvest before cold weather. Frost-tolerant crops need cooler conditions and can be planted throughout most of the fall season. For best success with cool season crops (except root vegetables), start seeds indoors first, then transplant them into the garden in 1-2 weeks, or buy ready-to-go transplants. Carrots and other "root" vegetables don't like to be disturbed, so plant those seeds directly into the bed.
August: cabbage, cucumber, tomatoes (transplants), potatoes(tubers), squash(tp), peppers(tp).
September: bush beans, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, garlic and shallots(clove/bulb), kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, snap peas, radish, turnips.
October: carrots, onions(bulb), spinach
4. Plant cool crops in succession. Most cool crops can be planted all the way through January, so if you space out your plantings you can space out your harvests and enjoy your fresh vegetables longer.
5. Be prepared for early frost. While most years our first hard freeze doesn't occur until December, sometimes we do get a frost as early as October. Even light frost will damage warm season crops such as potatoes and tomatoes. It takes a little bit harder overnight freeze to affect cool crops, and typically if there is damage it is to the above ground crops such as broccoli heads or lettuce leaves. There are lots of ways to safeguard against frost damage. Physical barriers are the most popular, including covering with frost cloth (fabric specially made for frost protection), sheets, large cans or drums, and wind barriers. Be sure to uncover as temperatures warm during the day. It is always a good idea to water deeply prior to a freeze: wet earth protects roots better and internal water is a plant's natural insulation. Don't forget mulch - an excellent way to insulate your plants, while blocking out weeds and decomposing into next season's garden.
Questions or tips to share? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section - we'd love to hear your fall garden experiences!
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