Many gardeners become a little depressed when late summer and early fall arrive. They’ve often harvested the last of their fruits and vegetables out of the garden by then. Perhaps they have never had the chance to plant fruits and vegetables yet. Often, they are thinking that they will just have to wait for next spring before they can garden anymore. The fact is that fall is a wonderful time to garden. There is little need to wait until next spring.
Advantages of fall gardening
In the early spring, even when the air temperature warms up enough to plant, the ground may be too cold to grow anything. If seeds are planted before the ground has warmed up enough, they can sit in the ground until they eventually rot, because nature has a way of telling many seeds that they shouldn’t grow yet. For those that do grow, the growth process can be very slow and when the soil does worm up, the plants can take quite a bit of time to recover. Some plants might even be stunted in response to cold ground temperatures. However, when planting in the fall, the ground is already warm. This means that the seeds often germinate faster and more easily. The plants also tend to grow faster and stronger.
An early frost can wipe out seedlings of even cold loving crops. In the fall, there is almost no chance of a frost while the seedlings are small. Additionally, worms and helpful insects, both of which are helpful to the plants, aren’t abundant or are absent in the early spring. By late summer and early fall, the worms and beneficial insects are often found in large numbers. In late summer and early fall, there even tends to be more days of sunshine early in the plant’s life, so they can grow stronger. Basically, all they need is plenty of water.
What can you grow in fall?
The answer to this question is that you can grow nearly anything in the fall that you could grow in the spring, even in the north. The exceptions would include those fruits and vegetables that require a long period of growth. Truth is, there aren’t all that many that do. Naturally, you wouldn’t expect to grow watermelons or corn from seed in a late garden because both can take three to four months to mature enough to be harvested. However, there are many plants that could be ready for harvest by October if they were planted in August. Tomatoes and peppers may also not have the time to produce fruit and it is almost assured that eggplants wouldn’t have time unless they were planted as relatively large plants, in which case they can thrive. Zucchini can have time to produce, however, because this squash is relatively fast growing and requires warm days to set fruit. By planting them in late summer or early fall, you are giving them great conditions for growing even faster than normal.
Some examples of great vegetables to plant in the fall include: Lettuce, especially leaf lettuce, chard, beets, radishes, turnips, spinach, peas, kale, kohlrabi, cauliflower and broccoli. If these are planted in August, it usually isn’t very long before the nights are cool, though the days may be warm to hot. This is ideal for the vegetables just mentioned because that is actually the conditions they prefer. Some of them struggle when the weather is very hot and doesn’t cool down. Better still, though, these plants have time to become established before the nights cool off consistently, so there is less of a chance for crop failures.
It is true that fall planting often requires more water than normal because daytime conditions are often hot and dry, but this can even be minimized by watering at night or in the early morning and watering at ground level rather than using sprinklers. Watering in this way allows more of the water to reach the roots and less of it to evaporate before it can do some good. This is actually the best way to water regardless of when the garden is put in.
When late summer and early fall approaches, it absolutely doesn’t mean that it is time to retire the garden for another year. Even if you are growing plants in containers, this is a good time to put in the second garden. If you want to continue gardening, by all means, do. Early August is actually a tremendous time to plant, especially in the south but even in the north. The choice is yours, of course. You can deal with the depression of not being able to garden until the spring or you can do something about it by planting in the fall. Really, you don’t have much to lose.