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The heat is beginning to wind down and the summer season is slowly transitioning but that doesn’t mean that gardening is over. There are plenty of thriving plants to grow in the fall that will help provide fresh produce for your family as well as squeak out as much use of your garden as you can before winter. Gardening tips and tricks for a successful harvest starts with understanding what to plant. Here are some of the best vegetables to start growing in your fall vegetable garden:
Lettuce Loves Cool Weather
There are plenty of options when it comes to planting lettuce in the garden. Choose from a wide variety of greens like iceberg, romaine, spinach and arugula. Lettuce is a cool season crop meaning that it grows best when temperatures aren’t so hot. It germinates and sprouts very quickly and can be planted every two weeks throughout the fall season in order to provide a never-ending supply of lettuce for your table. Many lettuce varieties also develop a deeper flavor after a first frost or early snow as well.
Peas are Perfect for Fall
If you live in a higher USDA growing zone with a longer fall season, consider growing peas in the garden for an edible snack. Peas like the cooler temperatures of fall and take a little bit of time to establish and produce. Plant them near a fence or some tall structure that they can grab onto and climb to produce the best peas. Enjoy fresh peas for dinner or have your kids take them in their lunches for a healthy snack right from your own backyard.
Carrots: Root Veggies Rule in Fall
Soil quality is important for producing the best carrots in the fall. Make sure to plant carrot seeds in fall vegetable garden soil that is well drained in order to allow the carrots to grow. If you have clay soil consider planting carrots in raised beds with moderately fertile soil that will allow them to grow better. Carrots should be planted about 12 weeks before the first frost date; you have flexibility after the initial frost date for planting since carrots are a root vegetable. Harvest them as close to this date as possible but don’t worry if you are a little late.
Plant the Perfect Herbs
The great thing about planting herbs in the fall is that they are quick to grow and you can start using even when the plant is still young. Consider growing easy herbs like chives, basil, and oregano in the fall in order to add fresh herbs to favorite dishes. Another option is to grow these herbs indoors in a windowsill planter that will keep them longer after the first frost arrives.
Another great option to add to your fall vegetable garden are zesty radishes. Radishes are also quick to germinate and grow making them the perfect option for homeowners in all USDA growing zones. Harvest radishes young in order to enjoy their unique flavor. Depending on your garden’s location, radishes can be left in the ground for a good part of the winter due to being a root vegetable. Add radishes to salads and soups for an extra kick of flavor.
Cabbage Grows Quick
Both red and green cabbage love the fall growing so much that they are considered one of the best producing fall vegetables. Harvest cabbage when the heads are firm no matter if they are small or large. Grow cabbage during the fall to produce large heads ready for fresh coleslaw or as a great addition to fall soups and stews.
There are plenty of vegetables to begin growing during the fall season. Add fresh produce to your meals by growing easy fall varieties like lettuce, radishes, and herbs. Enjoy longer growing fall vegetables like cabbage, carrots, and peas in order to take advantage of the full fall gardening season.
5 Fall Gardening Secrets to Assure Success
These 5 timely tips from Bonnie Plants will help you make your autumn garden as enjoyable as your summer harvest.
1. Start from Seeds
Plant pre-started vegetable or herb transplants rather than seeds to squeeze every last moment out of fall’s compressed growing season. These plants love warm soil coupled with cool air and will start to grow quickly. Using transplants instead of seed also means you’ll be gathering tasty produce weeks earlier than you would with seed-sown varieties.
2. Use a Cold-Frame Greenhouse to Keep Plants Warm
While you can certainly plant cool-season veggies and herbs in pots or in the ground, a simple, commonly available garden product, a “cold-frame”, can help you extend your fall garden season by providing some added protection. A cold frame is a four-sided, clear box — open to the soil at the bottom — with a hinged lid. Because the ground inside stays warmer than the ambient air temperature, a cold frame protects plants long after unsheltered veggies start to fail. (On warm, sunny days, be sure to crack the lid open to prevent too much heat from building up inside.)
3. Prepare Your Garden Plot for Fall Growth
If planting in-ground, be sure to clear the area of previous planted crops and weeds, as they may decay and harbor bacteria. Always bag, tie and discard debris. Turn up the soil’s top layer and add some bagged compost, and mulch. If planting in a pot, be sure to sanitize pots and use fresh, new potting soil, specifically formulated for containers.
4. Proactively Patrol for Garden Pests
While pest numbers naturally decline in the cooler days of fall, they don’t disappear entirely. Common fall garden pests of cool-season plants include tiny, sap-sucking aphids, caterpillars (particularly from cabbage white butterflies) and harlequin bugs. Inspect your plants for tiny clusters of aphids or tell-tale holes in the leaves. Handpick caterpillars or harlequin bugs from plants and dispose of them or use a strong blast of water from a hose to dislodge aphids.
5. Reduce Watering
With the warm days and cool nights of fall, less moisture evaporates from your garden or pots, so you’ll need to water less often. (Only water when the soil 2” deep is dry.) In addition, many cool weather crops handily survive light frosts, growing well until a very hard freeze ends their productivity. Better yet, chilly weather improves the flavor of many late-season varieties, including members of the cabbage family, kale, Brussels sprouts and chard, by turning their starches into natural sugars, making them a sweet and healthy treat.
Take time to chill (you, not the plants!)
Just like plants, Fall gardeners enjoy a break from the stifling heat of summer. With the leisure of cool days, fewer chores and less weeding as the garden begins to wind down, you’ll be able to enjoy the garden more while you wait to harvest your fall favorites to boost your recipes and brighten your table.
If you don’t want to give up on your garden’s bounty, get started with a selection of cool-season favorites now — and keep your garden growing!