Fall Vegetable Gardening
How do I get my garden ready for Fall planting?
Before you can plant anything new, you should do a simple soil test to make sure the Ph is still up at above 6.0 If not, add 1 pound of lime per 100 square feet for each .5 below that number. Hydrated lime will work quickly to correct the Ph for fall vegetables. Remove all of the dead plants that are no longer producing fruit. Most can go into the compost pile but any plant material that had diseases or insect problems should be disposed of to avoid carry over to the next season.
Add an inch or two of good rich compost and rototill the beds but make sure to remove any weeds carefully so that seeds are not spread out all over your garden. Any portion of the garden that is not going to plant until next spring should be covered well with hay or black plastic or you can plant a cover crop of clover or rye grass to turn under in the spring for additional nitrogen.
What comes in, what goes out?
Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Spinach, Cauliflower, Peas, Lettuces and greens of all types can be grown in the Fall. Most are frost tolerant and some can withstand freezes and even snow on the ground. Cabbages can grow huge but live over until early spring. All types of Salad greens can be planted and harvested at various stages.
Even Tomatoes and Bush beans can be grown in a fall garden by planting early varieties in July or August; they will be able to produce fruits before the first frost! Plus fried green tomatoes are a delicious way to finish off the leftover fruits. Many bush bean varieties take only 50-60 days to mature and Cherry and salad sized tomatoes can be ripe in 55-70 days. Try to avoid the large beefsteaks which take longer than 85-90 days to ripen.
Peppers generally ripen in the south very quickly in our hot dry months of August and September so leave them in the ground for as long as they are producing. Well watered plants will continue to fruit through the fall months. Peppers are also easy to freeze for storage and are great flavorings for soups when the weather is colder. After Peppers die back from the first frost, pull the plants out and set aside that area for Potatoes in early spring. Cover the row with a heavy layer of hay straw to begin to break down and lighten the soil.
Lettuces and Greens are full of nutrition and thrive with cooler nights. Plant them while it is still warm and watch them get larger as the temperatures drop. Spinach, one of our favorites, can be grown in even the coldest areas, all winter long with a covering of special lightweight fabric placed over the plants. Carrots can also be grown during the fall months, pull what you need for vegetable soup and Thanksgiving dinner and leave the rest in the garden until you need them.
Garlic and Shallots are best started in the fall months, around September to mid October, and left to over winter. Spring will bring a harvest of huge bulbs ready to pull around late May to early June. Plant bunching or green onions in early fall and plan to harvest them in November leaving room for bulbing sweet onions to be planted in January – March.
Even if you do not plant fall vegetables it is a good idea to do the following steps to get your garden ready for next spring.
Growing Tips — Fall Garden Conditioning
Preparing your garden for next year is very important. If done properly it allows you to use less chemical fertilizers and create a more loamy, light, soil with lots of microorganisms that will dig and digest organic material all winter long. This adds fertility to your garden that would have to be added in next spring at a slower and more expensive rate. For example, adding dead leaves to your garden makes for sweeter tomatoes next spring and provides better drainage at the same time. Here are some other mulching materials which can be added to your soil to improve the consistency and fertility:
Dead Leaves (the more the better, pile them on!)
Old Hay straw (watch out for seeds in hay)
Compost from grass, kitchen and garden clippings (half dried and half green, not too much green stuff)
Worm Castings, good black compost made rich by worms
Pine needles (make sure you add lime to correct the Ph as these can make your soil more acidic)
Egg shells (these add calcium which is needed by vegetables)
Manures (horse, cow, chicken or rabbit, no more than a inch or two depending upon the animal)
Green Manures**Green manure is actually just plants which grow well during the off season and dig down deeply with their roots, then are turned under in spring to breakdown before planting. This type of composting creates organic material in the soil, does deep digging for you, and can even add nitrogen if you use bean type (legume) plants. Red Clover and Annual Rye grass will grow in the winter months and when turned under, will release nitrogen as it breaks down.
Lime (to correct Ph in heavy rainfall areas, lime is almost always needed every year)
Most importantly, old gardeners know never to leave the soil uncovered for the weeds to take over and soil to compact. Use natures direction and get those raked leaves back into the soil or compost heap and out of those plastic bags!
Growing Greens in your Garden
Healthy and Nutritious, greens are really the easiest vegetables to grow. You can even grow them with only a half day of sunshine or in containers with fantastic results. No staking, no pruning, no fuss and no bother.
Best Vegetables for Fall Growing:
Arugula – Fast growing leafy greens for salads or pizza or pastas.
Beans and Peas – While not exactly winter crops, beans and peas love the cooler weather of fall and fast maturing varieties will grow and harvest before your first frost.
Beets – Easy to grow for the tops as greens or wait just 60 days and harvest the root for soups and stews.
Kale – Very nutritious leafy greens on huge plants that over-winter easily even in cold climates.
Collards – Another leafy green similar to kale but with larger, stronger flavored leaves.
Lettuces – Easy to grow in areas with milder winters, they will grow throughout the fall season and can be extended by covering with a light fabric.
Spinach – Delicious and sweet when the weather cools off, spinach will also grow through the winter under a light cover.
Bunching Green Onions – easy to grow and long lasting, you will harvest them similar to large chives.
Broccoli – Incredibly delicious when you grow your own. Broccoli grows a central flower head and continues with side shoots that can harvest after the main head is cut.
Cauliflower – Cauliflower planting must be timed well in order to develop large heads but they are sweet and delicious when grown fresh.
Mustard – Spicy hot leaves, this is a very fast growing vegetable which can be harvested quickly and eaten all through November and into December.
Cabbage – Huge plants make good sized heads, watch for the number of days to maturity for best results.
Pac Choi – Perfect vegetable for fall production the stalks are tender and tasty.
Endive – Attractive frilly leaves with a slight peppery taste which can be braised or eaten in winter salads.
Swiss Chard – Very easy to grow and delicious to eat braised with a little garlic or in a soup or stew. Leaves can get quite large and will produce all winter long in mild areas.
Brussels sprouts – Best from transplants these are wonderful little cabbages to grow. Check days to maturity for best results in your growing area.