I love gardening and everyone who gardens understands that excitement that comes in the spring to finally feel the dirt in your hands and smell the aroma of fresh, spring soil after a long winter of crunchy cold ground. For many beginning gardeners, getting those seeds in the ground in the spring is the focus and once those peppers and tomatoes are planted, they’re good to go. For serious gardeners, that is just the beginning. Although I too love those first moments in the spring watching those baby plants breakthrough for the first time, showing their green goodness, my favorite is the fall garden.
Fall gardening has many benefits and I recommend you give it a try. It’s not too late in most areas of the country to plant your fall garden so why not pull out those seed packets and enjoy the bonus of some extra home-grown fresh produce this year? Why do I love fall gardening so much? Here are a few reasons why you don’t want to miss out on planting your fall garden:
- For many of the common garden pests and bugs, fall gardens are past their main breeding seasons and you often have less problems, particularly those pesky cabbage moths that destroy your cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower in the spring.
- Cooler weather often means weeds grow slower and are less of a problem in your fall garden. I recommend and use raised beds with heavy mulch and compost, however, so this isn’t a factor as much for those who follow these practices.
- Some plants are heat loving (like tomatoes, peppers, and okra) but some plants are cool loving. This offers great variety in your fall garden since the tomatoes and peppers will continue to produce until the first frost, but your cool loving plants will be thriving and producing too!
- But the BEST part of the fall garden is the wonderful FLAVOR. Some vegetables actually are enhanced by a good chill and even frost like Kale and carrots. If you have a root cellar or are planning on preserving some of your root crops, the fall varieties will last longer into the winter for great garden flavor, sometimes well past Christmas!
So why not give a fall garden a try? What to plant, you may ask? Here are a few of my favorites that do well in a fall garden:
Green Beans: I prefer the bush bean variety since we like to can the extra beans and with bush beans you get more beans ready to pick at the same time. Bush beans, like the Blue Lake variety typically only need about 55-60 days from the time you plant until the time you pick so you have plenty of time to get one more crop of beans in before frost.
Peas: Peas are cool weather loving plants so are one of the first things I plant in the spring and a definite addition to the fall garden. If you live in an area like I do that is still pretty hot during planting time, protect the seedlings from the heat with some shade cloth. They’ll thank you with a bountiful harvest as the cooler days bring them joy.
Radishes: Radishes can be planted pretty much any time since they are so quick to germinate and are ready to pick in only about 25-30 days. Fall radishes tend to be less bitter and less spicy than the spring crop
Greens: Don’t forget to add some greens to your fall garden. Lettuce varieties and spinach really prefer the cooler temperatures. Your spring greens will tend to bolt quickly but the fall crop will offer wonderful and succulent enjoyment for months.
Carrots: I plant carrots periodically year-round since we eat a lot of carrots, but the sweetest carrots seem to come from our fall garden. Mulch well and they’ll stay good even after the frosts come.
Turnips: My daughter loves turnips, and don’t forget that the greens are great too!
Beets: Not everyone likes beets, but I think they’re wonderful. And, beets are so incredibly good for you. If you like beets add a few to your fall garden and enjoy some deep red, blood cleansing, heart healthy fare at Thanksgiving.
Cole Family Vegetables (Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale): The majority of my fall garden space is planted in cole crops. Difficult to get good produce in the spring due to those pesky cabbage moths, the fall garden produces an abundance of delicious broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. Kale especially loves the cold and will actually have a better flavor AFTER the first frost. I’ve had kale actually keep going throughout the whole winter.
Garlic: The best time to plant garlic for my area is October. Save an area of your garden for your garlic and try a couple different varieties. They’ll be ready to pick in the spring, but you can still harvest some of the stalks during those winter months when you need some garlic for your colds/flu remedies.
Strawberries: Plant your strawberries late fall and mulch heavily with oat straw (that’s where they get their name) for a delicious spring harvest.
I’m sure there are bunches of other crops that I missed, but these are the highlights of what I plant in my fall garden. As you can see, there is quite a variety and something for everyone. If you’ve never tried a fall garden, I highly recommend it. Enjoy and happy harvesting!