It’s easy to get so caught up in spring and summer crops that we neglect to see the advantageous possibilities of planting with a vision of a fall harvest. The fall season is often overlooked, but provides an opportunity for extended yields, soil protection, and provides the ideal conditions for cooler weather crops.
With a little bit of fall garden planning, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest all the way up to the edge of winter. Discover how to transition your spring and summer garden for fall crops and utilize the valuable vacant spots in your garden bed by filling them up with fall producers.
Calculate Frost Date
When we start to think about planting fall crops, it is paramount to identify when you can anticipate the first frost to roll through. Search online for the average frost date for your grow zone and have your seed packets handy, as they hold a wealth of information on the back.
You can calculate your ideal planting date by taking the date of the average frost in your area and subtracting the number of days until maturity from the back of your seed packet. This is the latest point that you should consider planting your seeds to ensure that the plants will produce fully before freezing temperatures conclude your growing season.
Write out a Plan
You are undoubtedly busy in the garden with your spring and summer crops. Carve out a little bit of time to write out a plan which takes into account the time seed varieties require until harvest and mark down the average frost date in your area. Use a calendar and jot down the target planting times for each of your fall garden plants to ensure that you don’t miss your window of planting your desired fall vegetables. Use your calendar as a valuable reference to help you organize what should be planted and when.
When planting in mid-to-late summer for a fall crop, you are likely going to plant in spaces where plants have already been harvested, and the plants are spent and ready for removal. Once removed from the garden, it is essential to amend the soil in these vacant garden spots, as have been depleted of nutrients by previous crops. Mix in well-decomposed compost and some fertilizer before planting for best results.
How and When to Plant for a Fall Harvest
There are a couple of options when it comes to preparing your fall garden and planting your late-season crops. Ideally, most fall crops should be planted by mid-July to mid-August. Some seeds can be sown directly into the soil in mid to late summer for a fall harvest. But, in some cases, you may be waiting for a spring or summer crop to finish producing before you end its cycle in the garden bed to make space for your fall producers.
The good news is that you can get a jumpstart on growing vegetables and nurture them from seed to seedling before planting. Start seeds in seed trays indoors until the garden space is available, and the time is right for planting your fall garden.
Implement succession planting for some crops such as leafy greens, radishes, and carrots. Succession planting means staggering your planting times to maximize garden space and extend your harvest. This practice prevents gardeners from having to harvest vast amounts of vegetables all at one time. Plant an array of seeds each week to achieve this rolling harvest. Succession planting works particularly well with carrots, radishes, and leafy greens.
To give your fall crops an extra boost, maximize your space in the garden beds, draw beneficial pollinators, and ward off unwanted pests, practice companion planting. Interplanting vegetables, herbs, and fall flowers can positively impact the growth of your plants later in the growing season when the sun is lower in the sky and available for less time.
As an example, it can be beneficial to grow corn, beans, pumpkins, and squash in the same garden bed. Corn stalks can provide sturdy natural supports for climbing beans while beans release nitrogen back into the soil as they grow which feeds heavy feeders like pumpkins, squash, and corn.
Mulch and Watering
Your new seeds and seedlings are likely to share space with some already established plants, so it is crucial to give them extra attention through mulching and watering. Young plants will be planted in the heat of mid-to-late summer and will need the protection of mulch for temperature regulation and can aid in moisture retention. Seedlings might also require more watering as they compete with other established neighbors for water and nutrients.
Recommended Fall Harvest Crops
It may be surprising to discover just how many varieties of vegetables thrive well as second season and late-season crops. Read seed packets and try to select varieties of these vegetables that have shorter maturation periods to give yourself the best chance of a complete and bountiful harvest.
- Bush Beans
- Collards Greens
- Mustard Greens