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Things to Do to Help Prepare Your Fall Garden

When you think of a garden, you probably think of a summer garden.  After all, this is the time of year when you harvest all the vegetables and fruits that you planted. However, fall is the perfect time of year to plant a fall garden.  Depending on when you plant your fall garden, there should be just enough time for your veggies to grow before the frost comes.  If not, there are many tips to prevent your crops from freezing.  In this article I will be going over the tips for preparing a fall garden, tasty veggies to plant in the fall, helpful gardening tips, and ways to help your crops survive during the winter.  Hopefully by the end of this article you will be inspired to get planting.

How to Prepare Your Fall Garden

Let's begin by learning how to prepare a fall garden.  It is important that your garden is prepared for your fall vegetables so that you can plant them as soon as possible.  With that being said, here is a list of some helpful tips to prepare your garden for fall vegetables.

Pull the Weeds and Harvest the Summer Vegetables

The first thing to do is harvest the veggies you planted in the spring so that you have room to plant your fall vegetables.  If any of the vegetables are not ripe yet, you can pick them anyways and let them ripen after getting picked.  Don't forget to pull the vines/stem your vegetables grew on.  For example, if you planted pumpkins don't forget to pull out the vines.  Also, make sure you pull any weeds that are in your garden.  Even if you have been weeding your garden, there may still be a few weeds that you didn't notice.

Know When to Plant

One of the most common questions is this:  "When do I plant my fall garden?"  While you can plant it later in the fall and cover it so it doesn't become damaged by the frost, it is recommended to plant your fall garden early.  August is the recommended month for planting a fall garden, but if your summer garden isn't done growing you may need to wait a little longer.

That said, if you plant your fall garden too early the plants may become stunted from the heat.  If they become stunted, some vegetables will be tough and bitter.  An easy way to find out when you should plant your fall garden is to find out the average date of first frost in your area.  Then, check the back of the seed packet for each crop you want to plant for the “days to maturity.” Subtract that number from the average date of frost to find the best time to plant.

Decide What You Want to Plant

Next, pick out the vegetables you would like to plant.  Below, I have gone over the best veggies to plant in the fall.  Once you have picked out the vegetables you want to plant, plant them in the garden just like you did in the spring.

Veggies to Plant in the Fall

There are so many delicious vegetables that you can plant in the fall.  From root vegetables to leafy greens, this list of fall vegetables will surely become favorites at your house.  Also, when it comes to choosing fall vegetables, you want quick growing vegetables.  That way they'll be done growing by the time the frost comes.  All of these vegetables below grow fairly quick.  So, here is a list of fall crops to plant in your fall garden.

  • Arugula - Arugula, also known as rocket, is a fantastic vegetable to grow in your fall garden.  This spicy green is ready for harvesting in just 30 days.  Arugula is perfect for salads and soups.  To harvest this plant, begin cutting the outer leaves once they are at least 2-inches long.  Allow the plant to continue to produce harvests.  There are different varieties to consider, including Salad Rocket, Wild Rocky, and Dragons Tongue.
  • Baby Carrots - This smaller version of the regular carrot is perfect for small snacks.  Select early maturing varieties and harvest around 60 days.  Carrots can withstand some light frosts, but it is best to harvest them before the ground freezes to prevent the tender, young roots from rotting.  As for harvesting, wait until the shoulders are 1/2 to 3/4 inches.  Like any regular carrot, carefully pull it out of the ground to harvest.  Different varieties to choose from include Little Finger, Tonda di Parigi, and Thumbelina.
  • Bok Choy or Pac Choi - This member of the cabbage family grows rapidly and is ready to harvest in 30 days when at its baby stage, which is great for stir-fries, soups, or salads.  Bok Choy is the same as Pac Choi, and there are also other names this vegetable is called.  To harvest, snip the outer leaves allowing the plants to continue to produce.
  • Bunching Onions - Plant your bunching onions 8 weeks before the first frost date.  Bunching onions require full sun to partial shade.  If given some protection from severe winters, they can survive below freezing temperatures, frosts, and snow just fine.  When the green onions are over six inches tall, it is time to harvest them.
  • Kale - The small, tender leaves of kale can be harvested in as little as 30 days.  Kale matures fully in 60 days.  It can be eaten raw, or you could cook it.  Snip the outer leaves and let the plant continue to produce.  The nice thing about kale is that it can withstand temperatures as low as 10 degrees and is also noted for improved sweetness after frost.  So if a frost does happen to come before you can harvest your kale, you don't have to worry about it becoming damaged.
  • Lettuce - This popular vegetable is perfect for salads and sandwiches.  Most lettuce varieties mature within 30 days.  The cooler weather will bring out the color of your lettuce.  To harvest, snip the outer leaves and let the plant to continue to grow and produce more foliage.
  • Radishes - Radishes grow very quickly, and have a peppery flavor.  Harvest this plant in about 30 days or when the radish is around 1-inch diameter.  The greens are edible too.

Helpful Gardening Tips

Leave the Leaves on the Ground

Yes, this means you don't have to rake every single leaf in your yard.  The reason for this is that if you have trees, the leaves will become compost which is what your trees need.  However, leaves you must rake are those on perennial beds (they can cause crown rot) and grass lawns (they attract fungi and insects).

Hang Tomatoes If Frost Has Come

If frost is coming before your tomatoes are down ripening, you can hang them somewhere safe until they become red.  The reason why you hang them (with the vine still on obviously) is because when the vine is still on the tomatoes, they will successfully ripen without the tomatoes going bad.

Keep Your Plants Well Watered

Because you will most likely be planting your vegetables sometime during late summer and early fall, the weather is going to be very hot.  When the weather is hot, your little seeds may die from the heat.  To prevent this from happening, you will want to water your vegetables a lot.  Keep them soaked and don't let the soil become too dry.

How to Help Crops Survive Cold Weather

It can be difficult when cold weather comes earlier than you planned.  You don't want to harvest your fall crops just yet, but you don't want them to freeze either.  Here are some tips to help your fall garden survive the cold weather.

  • Cover the Plants - If your fall garden is near a tree or fence, it is going to be more protected from the weather.  If it is not, you will at some point want to cover your plants if cold weather is coming.  Plants may need covering if there's a long period of 25-degree weather, but they probably can survive a very short amount of cold air during the night.
  • Choose Plants That Can Handle the Cold - It is important that you choose plants that can handle the cold.  If they are not hardy and can't handle cold weather, most likely they will not grow to well during the fall.
  • Plant the Seeds Indoors Earlier In the Summer - Before you plant your seeds in the garden, it is helpful if you plant them indoors.  Even if you don't plant them during the summer, it gives your plants a better chance of surviving if they grow indoors first.
  • Harvest the Veggies As Soon As Possible - Unlike a summer garden, you don't want to let your fall vegetables stay outside longer than they need to.  As soon as they are ready to be harvested (or even sooner), harvest them.  That way there isn't a risk of the frost damaging the plants.

Final Thoughts

Do you want to have plenty of home grown vegetables during early winter?  If so, you may be interested in planting a fall garden.  As soon as you harvest your summer garden, plant your fall garden so that it has enough time to grow before the frost comes.  In case frost does come, I went over some tips for helping your fall crops survive the cold weather.  Make sure you choose plants that are hardy and fast growing.  Hopefully you found this article to be helpful and inspiring. Have fun planting your fall garden!

Mariann Foster

I am one of our content writers for Everything Backyard. I am a mother and business owner of Big Horn Mountain Alpacas in Wyoming. I love farm life, cutting my own firewood in the mountains, and participating in local trail run races.

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