Extend the Growing Season by Planting a Fall Garden

My daughter calls it “my Kindle” for a reason. Recently, a warning flashed that I had reached the capacity for application storage. Tucked away, I came across a wonderful free gardening resource called “Gardenate.” I was thrilled to find a listing of herbs, fruits, and vegetables that can be safely planted in my climate zone each month of the year. Immediately, I felt energized. Too often, the guessing game of when to plant is not a fruitful endeavor, especially in today’s economy of expensive produce. By planting crops in August and September, fresh vegetables will be ready to serve in delicious casseroles and soups as early as October. In addition, the temperatures are cooler and there is no longer a need to worry about pesky insects. Of any time of year, the fall season is the best time to plant a garden.

Preparing the Soil
What happened to that beautiful, thriving garden? The lettuce has gone to seed while unpicked tomatoes look like a science experiment. It may not take long to remove the debris from your garden, but the soil has been depleted of its nutrients. One of the most enriching additives is compost. While we recycle plastic, paper, glass and cardboard, it makes perfect sense to allow kitchen and yard waste to benefit future crops. Egg shells, banana and potato peels, and coffee grounds, for instance, would increase the size and quantity of your harvest. In considering the benefits, composting retains moisture, keeps roots cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and maintains healthy, enriched soil. A secondary option is adding a light layer of aged manure, an organic fertilizer, or a soil conditioner.

What to Plant
By August, many gardening centers will offer special sales on seeds. While purchasing seeds for the fall harvest, it would be wise to consider replenishing your supply for the spring planting, too. If you question the freshness of the seeds, you can always vacuum seal the packets, and place in a cool location.
The environmental conditions of the warm days and cool nights of the fall season contribute to the success of the fall garden. Some plants may have failed in the spring due to the time of planting; therefore, consider the listing of plants below for a higher probability of success. For example, snow peas should only be planted in March and April, while spring onions will thrive if planted in March, September, and October.

The listing of the following “perfectly timed” vegetables will be ready in October and early November, with the exception of potatoes. (A helpful tip: Do not plant potatoes and turnips together. Each will compete for the nutrients within the soil, and the evidence will appear in the size of the vegetables.)

  • beans 60-85 days
  • cauliflower, 55-80 days
  • beets, 50-70 days
  • cucumbers, 55-65 days
  • broccoli, 50-65 days
  • potatoes, 90-120 days
  • cabbage, 60-90 days
  • squash, 85-120 days
  • carrots, 60-80 days
  • turnips, 45-70 days

Harvesting can occur at any time. While most gardeners will judge a fruit or vegetable based on its color, sheen, and/or size, vegetables picked early are often at the height of their tenderness and flavor.

If you have the available space, you can take advantage of multiple plantings of beets, cabbage, carrots, and turnips. While it is wonderful to think of fresh vegetables harvested in the fall and winter season, determine your plan for storage early. Canning or freezing homemade soups would be an appreciative gift to older relatives, new parents, overworked friends, and the list continues.

  • beets, 50-70 days
  • lettuce, 45-60 days
  • cabbage, 60-90 days
  • onion, 90-100 days
  • carrots, 60-80 days
  • radish, 45-70 days
  • chives, 70-75 days
  • spinach, 45-60 days
  • garlic, 90 days
  • turnips, 45-70 days

Home grown foods have been a topic of conversation for centuries. Did you know George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson composted? Yes, they engaged in conversations about the timing of plants, and gardening beyond the spring season. By gardening, you are eating fresh organic foods, and saving money throughout the year. Join the club! You don’t necessarily need a green thumb. You just need the love of watching a seed grow!