The transition from the dog days of summer to cooler nights and chilly mornings occurs subtly, at first. It’s one of the many indications that fall is upon us. With shorter days of sunlight and the disappearance of pesky insects, the change of weather brings a new desire to enjoy the great outdoors and reinvest time back in the garden. There are many benefits to growing cool weather crops. The shorter harvesting dates may encourage you to consider planting several crops consisting of lettuce, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. In thinking about a greater supply of fresh vegetables for soups or meals, canned or frozen, a household cannot be too prepared for the upcoming season of festivities, holidays and winter forecasts. In addition, there’s something in the air which will make your fall harvest taste both crisper and sweeter!
Choosing the Right Location
Take a walk around your garden and decide the best location to begin improving the soil. Do not disturb cucumber vines, tomato plants, and herbs, for instance, if the plants are thriving in appearance and continuing to produce. On the other hand, soil that has already reaped a successful crop, such as peas, onion, or corn can be easily cleaned to start anew.
Preparing the Soil
Restoring the nutrients does not have to be a chore of great weight or expense. First, think about what compostable items you have that can be simply tossed into the garden. Banana, potato and carrot peels, crushed egg shells, and coffee grinds are just a few additions to aid the soil. Turning, raking, or tilling will help mix the soil together. (An additional additive is an organic material such as manure. It will do wonders for your soil and assist in the size of your vegetables.)
Use a Calendar for Guidance
Fall gardening is a race against the first freeze. According to the Almanac, the Piedmont Triad is likely to have its first frost between October 15th and 30th; therefore, record harvesting dates to ensure your vegetables can be harvested in time. While a light freeze, ranging from 29 to 32 degrees, will cause little damage to your crops, covering your crops with an old sheet during unexpected low temperatures will, at least, offer protection. Pay close attention to your seed packet. While each variety has its own unique growing season and length, it is important to follow its directions.
Cool Weather Crops
Planted in August, vegetables such as beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, kohlrabi, lettuce and spinach, parsnips and radishes begin to thrive just as the plants are half-way towards their harvest. Gardeners often claim the fall season is the best time of year to eat cool weather crops. We can thank the great weather or soil conditions, but many gardeners have claimed “fall” provides the best-tasting vegetables.
A few key hints:
- Soak seeds the night before planting for quicker germination.
- Vegetables with shallow roots, such as the onion, for instance, could transition with lettuce, spinach, or beets. Try a second planting of lettuce and spinach, one week later, to lengthen eating organic, fresh vegetables and reap the savings.
- Try planting arugula, mustard, or turnips this fall. While their broad leaves will shade out unruly weeds, the nutrients found in the plants at the end of the growing season, can be used for compost.
Extending the Growing Season
The word “frost” or the words “deep freeze” can sometimes feel as pesky as a fly. One method to protect your precious plants, as well as extend the growing season, is by building cold frame boxes. Made from a variety of materials, they can be constructed from wood or plastic, concrete blocks or bricks, or old window panes. The goal is to surround your vegetables and keep them safe from the elements. And, most importantly, give you additional time to benefit from fresh homegrown vegetables!