Before you stow garden tools for the season, consider planting a second wave of vegetables for fall harvest. Planting radish, cabbage and leafy greens now will keep your table filled with fresh food this fall.
Select cool-season crops
Garden crops are categorized as warm- or cool-season. Cool-season crops thrive in fall growing conditions. Cool-season crop seeds germinate and grow at lower temperatures. Plants are not hindered by shorter days and less sunlight.
The same cool-season crops you plant in early spring can be planted again in fall. Gardeners with small plots can divide a packet of radish or lettuce between first and second season. The second season is shorter, providing fewer growing days for plants to reach full maturity.
Cool-season crops requiring more days to maturity should be planted as seedlings to jump start growth. Alternatively, choose “baby” varieties that require fewer days to mature. Season extenders like greenhouses, row covers, and cold frames mitigate the risk of frost damage and failure to reach full maturity.
Top 10 fall garden crops
4. Green onions/scallions
5. Snow peas
6. Swiss chard
The first growing season can create natural deficiencies and pH imbalances that need to be addressed in order to have a successful second season. Productive first season plants eat up soil nutrients leaving less available nutrients for the second wave of crops.
Spring and summer tillage causes compaction and reduces aeration. Exposure to harsh summer sunlight, wind and rain, takes a toll on soil texture and tilth.
A soil test identifies deficiencies and diagnoses pH problems. A professional test from a local lab costs about $20. Expect results in 1-2 weeks. Contact your county Extension office to locate a reputable lab.
Prep garden bed
Soil test results include recommendations how to restore your ground to good health. Synthetic or organic amendments bring pH to par, and boost soil nutrient levels. Incorporate amendments into soil prior to fall planting.
Too much tillage creates compaction and poor aeration. It’s smart to skip tilling garden soil when you can. I till once a year, in spring, to push under my cover crop. I avoid tilling again in fall by placing thick black plastic over ground to choke out weeds. I remove the plastic after a week, then work amendments into the soil by hand at depth of 8-12 inches.
Plant for fall
How to direct sow seed. Read the seed packet. Map out a straight row for planting. Straight rows make it easier to identify weeds from sprouts. Plant seeds at recommended depth and spacing. Mark rows. Water lightly as to not disturb seeds. Keep ground moist to encourage good germination.
How to transplant seedlings. Dig a hole slightly deeper and larger than the seedling container. Gently remove seedling from the container. Place seedling level with soil. Surround seedling with displaced soil. Water deeply.
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