Your garden doesn’t have to be cleaned up when the calendar page flips from August to September. Two benefits of gardening in the fall are cooler temperatures and more moisture, according to Purdue University Cooperative Extension.
Fast-growing vegetables can be planted in the late summer and harvested in the fall.
When to start your fall garden
August is typically the month to begin fall gardening, so harvest can take place in early fall. Virginia Cooperative Extension explains how to determine when to plant your fall garden based on when your area’s first fall frost:
If you start your own seeds, count the number of days from seed to transplant +
Average harvest period +
Fall factor (about 2 weeks) +
Frost tender factor (about 2 weeks, if applicable)
= days to count back from first frost date
Or, to put it more simply, online columnist Ivory Harlow says to find out the first projected frost date (try The Old Farmer’s Almanac) for your hardiness zone and count backward with the number of days to maturity on the seed packet.
For instance, in zone 6a, frost is expected around September 25. To plant a spinach variety with a 44 days to maturity, plant by August 12.
Fall garden soil preparation
Ohio State University Extension advises to prepare garden soil well before planting for fall:
- Make sure proper care has been given to minimize weeds.
- Remove residue and debris from the summer garden.
- Only fertilize if fertilizer wasn’t applied in the spring and summer. For 100 square feet, use 1-2 pounds of 8-16-16 fertilizer. Mix in well with the soil.
- Apply water to dry soil before planting seeds and transplanting seedlings.
What to plant
Depending on where you live, certain plants can withstand colder temperatures and light frosts. And, in some places, your growing season may extend farther into fall.
Here are some ideas of what to plant. Check individual varieties to determine if the days to maturity will work for your hardiness zone:
- Leaf lettuce
- Swiss chard
- Winter onions
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