September and October can be prime time to garden. The fall garden really does have some advantages for the vegetable gardener. There’s no sweating through hot and humid weather, swatting at bugs, and no need to lug around the hose or watering can. Greens and lettuces are ideal candidates for cool-weather gardening in nearly every part of the country.
Some fall garden ideas and tips:
~Besides a fall crop for your Mexican dishes, cilantro sown from seed now will bring a free ‘volunteer’ spring crop if you let it drop the seeds later this winter. Just turn it under as a green manure before planting again in the spring. The early green freshness of cilantro WOWS me after a long, hard winter!
~Give your perennial chive plant a haircut in anytime now, and it will send up pretty new silvery-blue tops to adorn your autumn soups, baked potatoes, and dips.
Hardy vegetables tolerate hard frosts (usually 25 to 28 degrees F). They taste best in cool weather, making them perfect for fall harvests. See the USDA Freeze Map for the approximate date of the first freeze in your area. This will give you an idea of how long your harvest season will last, because many of these hardy vegetables will continue in the garden for weeks after the first hard frost. It’s amazing. When you see this, you wonder, “Why doesn’t everyone plant a fall garden?”
Go underground. Start quickly maturing root crops, like carrots, radishes, beets, and turnips early in the spring, of course, but also plant them at the end of summer to keep them going well into the fall. These can be amazingly productive if you plant a single large crop, so just plan to keep sowing small rows or patches successively. That way you’ll always have something ready but won’t be overwhelmed and wondering if the Flopsy Bunnies are available for some selective garden thinning!
You can have fun growing carrots in a container of loose soil if you haven’t the space or inclination to grow more than a pot’s worth. This is a wonderful project for a child! Here’s how:
Go green. Lettuces and other greens can quickly go to seed and become bitter in summer, but plant them in late summer/early fall and you can enjoy fresh-from-the-garden goodness for salads, green smoothies, sandwiches for weeks.
Consider a cold frame. They’re available commercially, but you can also make your own. Improvisation is just one part of gardening. Many gardeners devise a plan for extending the season, and a couple of old window frames make for an excellent insulated straw bale cold frame. Allow for venting.
Add a splash of color. Pansies are amazing for taking you right into late fall with luminous color. Last year’s little pot of pansies, in a sheltered place and half buried in leaves and snow, was still alive this spring, ready to cheer us with their blooms once more.
Cold-loving. Some cool-season vegetables can even cross the line and survive as cold-season vegetables. Russian Winter Kale ( the name says it all), in particular, can survive until the temperature reaches the freezing point and should even last through snow. It is even sweeter and more tender then and a hand-full will add terrific nutrition to soups and smoothies. Use like spinach.
Go for the crunch. There’s a reason broccoli is a fall and winter favorite in the stores; it can handle the cooler temperatures. Any member of the cabbage family is a good choice for the garden when temperatures drop.
Surprising cool-season crops include potatoes and rhubarb. Yes, they are often grown in the summer, but they prefer the cooler temperatures of spring and fall. If you plant organic store-bought potatoes (not treated with sprout inhibitor) early enough to develop tops and flowers, the spuds will grow well under the warmer soil and bring you a nice November harvest!
“Don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.” ~ Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit
“In the garden, Autumn is, indeed the crowning glory of the year, bringing us the fruition of months of thought and care and toil. And at no season, safe perhaps in Daffodil time, do we get such superb colour effects as from August to November.” ~Rose G. Kingsley, The Autumn Garden, 1905
Thanks for reading!