How To Plant A Fall Vegetable Garden

LettuceBedwebDid you fail to plant a garden this spring? That means you’re a bad person. Now is the time to redeem your sorry self by planning out your fall garden. It’s a bit of work, but the results are worth it.

Where to Plant

If you don’t already have raised beds or an already cleared garden space, I recommend double-digging a patch of lawn. If there’s a really nice healthy piece, put your garden there. Also make sure you’ve got lot of light. That may sound like a basic thing, but it’s vital. I once made the mistake of planning a garden without proper attention to nearby tree cover. As the seasons changed, my garden ended up so shady it was a complete failure. You’re going to need all the sun you can get as the days get cooler, so plan accordingly.

Another thing to consider: if you put your garden next to your house, it’s going to get better care. Don’t stick it off in a corner or weeds and pests will sneak in before you know it. A garden right off the back porch or in a front planter is perfect.

What to Plant

Turnips3This is a little more complicated and is really going to depend on your region. In my area, we have very mild winters. At various points from September through November, my lovely wife and I plant potatoes, beets, wheat, rye, fava beans, peas, carrots, cabbages, broccoli, collards, mustard, kale and lots of turnips. These are all cool-season plants that will tolerate frost. If you live further north, you’re probably going to start planting your fall crops now – and you may not be able to pull off some of my list in time to get a harvest. If I were living someplace colder, I’d stick to tough plants like kale and fava beans in the fall, or simply grow a few fast-growing salad greens like lettuce, chard and spinach before I ran out of warmth.

Another thing to consider: beyond your annual garden beds, fall is a great time to plant long-term trees and perennials. Some garden centers are dumping their plants for next-to-nothing in September and October. I once bought a half-dozen fruit trees for $10 apiece from a local Lowes that was getting ready to put in their fall displays and had to liquidate their nursery stock. Keep your eyes open for those opportunities – and get your trees in the ground and happy before it gets too cold.

What if it’s too late to plant?

FrostyBroccoliwebIf you live where it gets really cold, the fall isn’t really a time for getting crazy with planting either annuals or perennials. It’s time to put things to bed and plan for spring. I didn’t do a lot of fall gardening when I lived in Tennessee (even though I could), but I did spend a lot of time getting things ready for the following year’s plots. As the weather cools, it’s a great idea to gather leaves from the side of the road, build big compost heaps, mulch around all your trees and shrubs, double-dig new beds or throw down big piles of organic matter. I used to have a deal with a local coffee shop where I’d take all their grounds twice a week. I got endless trashcans filled with rich, black coffee debris. All the leaves I gathered were mixed with those grounds in my multiple compost piles. The nitrogen in the coffee was a perfect match for the carbon in the leaves, giving me wonderful success with my composting. Another friend was a dumpster diver, so year-round I had boxes of rotten produce to mix in. If I hadn’t been gathering endless bags of leaves each fall, I wouldn’t have been able to utilize the coffee grounds and rotten produce nearly as well. Don’t miss your leaf-gathering window! And along those lines – if you’re deep mulch gardening, this is a great time of year for sheet composting. By spring, you’ll have a great place to plant. And, speaking of spring, it’s also time to…

Plan the Spring Garden

Finally… once your work is done for the year, it’s not time to sit around – unless you’ve got a seed catalog in your hands! Through fall and winter, when the weather may not allow anything to be done outdoors, it’s time to think of spring and ask questions about the previous year’s garden. Did something do really well? Too well? Did one type of bean taste great – and another taste bland? Did your gardening methods work or fail? Did watering take too long? Was a certain pest out of control? Is there a new crop you’ve been wanting to try?

Get out your notebook… dream big… draw lots of pictures! Spring will be here again before you know it.

About David The Good

David The Good is a naturalist, author and hard-core gardener who has grown his own food since 1984. At age five, he sprouted a bean in a Dixie cup of soil and caught the gardening bug. Soon after, his dad built an 8’ by 8’ plot for him and David hasn’t stopped growing since. David is the author of four books, writes a regular column for The Ag Mag in North Central Florida, is a Mother Earth News blogger and has also written for outlets including Backwoods Home, Survival Blog and Self-Reliance Magazine. You can find his books on Amazon here. David is a Christian, an artist, a husband, a father of seven, a cigar-smoker and an unrepentant economics junkie who now lives somewhere near the equator on a productive cocoa farm. Visit his daily gardening and survival blog here: The Survival Gardener And for lots more gardening info, click here and subscribe to his often hilarious YouTube channel.

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