Start Prepping For Fall With These Vegetable Gardening Tips
While there are plenty of options for Fall flowers, one of the best ways to make the most of the cooler weather outdoors is to create a vegetable garden. Fresh veggies like salad greens, cabbage, and beets are just some of the Fall staples you can grow and enjoy at home. Come harvest time, you'll have loads of delicious veggies just steps away to use in your favorite Fall recipes. Start planning your Fall vegetable garden with these tips!
Clear Your Garden Beds
The first step for creating a healthy Fall vegetable garden is clearing the dead plants and debris from the previous season. Cut back any old plants that have flowered (leave the roots undisturbed in the soil) and are past their best to make way for new growth. Sprinkle fresh compost on top of the soil several weeks prior to planting to ensure it's nutrient-rich and ready for new plants.
Know Your Hardiness Zone
Before you do any planting at all, it's important that you know what hardiness zone you live in. This tells you which plants thrive in your location and dictates when you should plant certain plants or crops depending on the weather.
Plants or seeds will often have their zone listed on the packaging. You can find your hardiness zone here.
Start Seeds Indoors
Wherever you live, you'll probably need to start your Fall vegetable seeds indoors at the end of the Summer. Fall vegetables need sunlight, but often the Summer sunshine is too hot for them to grow into healthy plants. Start your seeds inside, where the air conditioning and cooler temperatures offer ideal growing conditions. The more mature plants will be hardier and better suited for the cooler weather when you transplant them outdoors.
Build Raised Garden Beds
Raised garden beds aren't just attractive — they serve a practical purpose as well. Raised beds will keep the roots of your Fall vegetables warmer for a longer period of time since they help trap the heat from Summer. Plus, you can get creative by using these types of beds even if you don't have a traditional garden.
Build a Barrier For Wind
During the Fall months, harsh, cold winds can really wreak havoc on your plants, even if they're hardy. Blocking the wind is a great way to make sure your plants stay happy and healthy. Build a fence around your yard or the vegetable patch itself or consider shrubs if you want a more natural look.
Plant in the Full Sun
Even though most Fall vegetables thrive in cooler temperatures, the shorter days and declining sunshine mean you'll need to make sure they're getting enough sunlight to grow into healthy plants. Identify the sunniest spot in your garden and plant your seedlings there so they can soak up all of the rays they can.
Grow Fast-Harvesting Vegetables
You can make the most of the shorter Fall growing season by planting vegetables that grow and ripen quickly. These early and quick-harvesting vegetables include spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, among others. If you plant these in combination with later-harvesting plants, you'll be able to harvest your crops throughout the season instead of doing it all at the end.
Grow Frost-Resistant Crops
The further we get into Fall, the more chance there is of frost. Vegetables that harvest earlier in the season likely won't survive a frost, so make sure you plant some crops that are ideal for later in the season. Frost-resistant vegetables include beets, kale, carrots, turnips, and leeks. Many vegetables also taste sweeter having been grown in colder temperatures!
Mulch Your Beds
Mulching your flower beds is always a good idea, but it's especially important for Fall vegetable gardens. Mulch not only adds nutrients to the soil and prevents weeds from taking up valuable space, but is also a great way to help keep the roots of more delicate vegetables warmer during the colder months. It acts as a kind of insulation and can keep the soil warmer longer.
Keep Plants Well Watered
Watering your plants can be a fine science. Too much water and their roots can develop fungal diseases, but not enough water and they can become dehydrated and die. With newer seedlings, you'll want to keep them lightly watered until their roots have become established. For mature plants, try to water them deeply, letting them dry out between waterings.