Lots of gardeners grow food in the late spring and summer. They grow the typical annuals: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and summer squash.
If this sounds like you, you may be short changing yourself! Many areas have long enough growing seasons to support growing food well into the fall, and even into the winter.
Knowing this, and being in zone 7b, which has 213 growing days and mild winters, it seemed like a waste of garden space not to try my hand at some fall crops. I’ve even read that growing food in the fall can sometimes be easier, because there are less garden pests!
I did a bit of research on cool weather crops to learn more about my options.
Let me tell you, it was tough not to buy every packet of seeds I saw online. But I heeded this advice: whenever you’re planning a garden, make sure you not only take into account what you CAN grow, but also what you’ll actually eat.
You can work with being over run by produce you love, but if you have tons of a crop you don’t even eat, it’s just a waste.
I’ll eat pretty much any vegetable, so for me, my major consideration was space.
I decided on:
Beets (2 varieties)
Winter squash (already planted several weeks ago)
A big question for me this season was when the optimal time to plant fall crops was (it may seem simple, but I’ve never grown a fall garden before). Luckily, seed packets take a lot of the guesswork out of this decision.
All you need: is your average first frost date. Find yours here.
You need to give your crops enough time to grow before you expect freezing temperatures. However, many winter crops are resistant to cold temperatures if they’re already established and grown by the time it hits (so you can leave them in the ground). In fact, kale actually gets BETTER once it’s exposed to freezing temps. It makes it sweeter.
Once you know your first frost date, count back from then to determine when to sow your seeds.
In my area the average first frost is November 4.
I checked growing time, and when to sow recommendations on the seed packets and decided to plant most of my fall crops this past weekend (August 19) to give them adequate time (anywhere from 45-90 days) to grow before we get a frost. Carrots take the longest, so I gave them a week’s head start.
Planting tip #1
Label your seeds.There is no way to tell the difference once they’re in the ground, and it’s STILL hard to tell the difference once they’re seedlings.
Planting Tip #2
Do a bit of layout planning. Think through where you want everything (especially if you’re limited on space). Also, draw yourself a map to remember your plan! I sketched out this grid on a piece of paper so that I can remember what I planted where once the seedlings are in.
Planting tip #3
Remember, your seedlings are literally baby plants. They need a little bit of extra care while they get established. Make sure to keep them moist, and protected from any harsh elements while they get established. (I may or may not have ran outside in a torrential downpour a couple of days after planting my carrots to cover them so they didn’t wash away. That’s normal, right? 😉 )
At this point, most of my seeds have sprouted, and I can’t wait to update you on their progress! I’m still waiting on my lettuce to make an appearance… but in the meantime, these tiny carrot tops are very exciting.
Are you planting a fall garden?