If you want to try your hand at fall gardening, the good news is that it can be as easy and as fun as growing a summer garden. The growing principles are much the same as the plants will need adequate water, sunlight and protection from pests and disease. However, unless you live in a tropical climate, you will also likely be contending with cold weather as well. This is really where the challenge of vegetable gardening in the fall comes in. You will need to monitor the weather extremes and provide protection for your plants when you detect that they need it.
Of course, the harvests that you make in the fall actually start in the summer. Planting for your fall garden will generally be made in midsummer, around July or August in most areas. Because this is actually the hottest part of the year, you’ll need to take extra care as the plants germinate. Keeping the area properly irrigated is essential to success. If your plot is particularly hot, you can even germinate them in your house like you may have done for your spring plantings. Whether you plant them inside or out, you want to cover them with a friable soil such as peat moss and vermiculite. This will not only hold moisture, but also give them less resistance as they poke out of the ground. Once they are established, you may also want to provide shade cloth to cut down the sun. Crops that are happiest in the fall prefer less sun.
There is quite a list of crops that are ideal for vegetable gardens that will be harvested in the cooler weather of fall. While bush beans need quite hot temperatures to germinate, they can easily mature in cooler air. Plants that belong to the Brassica or Kale family are ideal for fall planting. They thrive in cool weather and are actually at their absolute best when reaching maturity during the fall. These include plants such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, mustard greens, chard, kohlrabi and beets. Root crops also love cool weather. Some fall favourites are turnips, rutabagas or swede, radishes and onions. Greens are happy in cold snaps, so plant a few patches of lettuce and spinach as well.
When practicing fall gardening, many people get even more mileage out of crops that are happy with the cold by using a greenhouse or cold frame to provide even more protection. By using these techniques, it’s possible to not only push the limits with cold loving plants, but actually be harvesting the most hardy plants well into the new year. Growing a fall vegetable garden can be a fantastic next step for the serious summer gardener!