Even though you’re busy enjoying the fresh produce coming out of your summer garden, there is no better time to start planning for your fall garden. If you’ve never planted a fall garden then you don’t know how much you are missing out on. Mother Earth News recommends this as the best time to sow seeds for lettuce, spinach, carrots and other veggies that you can enjoy fresh from the garden well into winter.
The best way to combat summer’s heat, lack of rain and increased insect activity is with a good plan. The first step is determining the first frost date for your area. Then count backwards 12 to 14 weeks. That when you should start seeds for broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and kale. Keep the seed starts indoors for now. You’ll be putting them out during some cloudy days when they are about 3 weeks old.
Greens like arugula, mustard and turnips pull triple duty. First they provide tasty harvests in the fall. Next, their leaves provide great shade for the garden bed and help keep weeds at bay. Lastly, as winter finally kills off the last of the plants, they provide a great nutrient boost for the soil.
Don’t forget to leave some space for your garlic bulbs. These are planted closer to winter along with shallots, and multiplying onions. These plants prefer the cooler temperatures of September in northern climates and October in more southern areas.
One of the most important aspects of the fall garden is water. Dry soil and even short droughts can devastate your fall garden. A soaker hose running through the various parts of the bed will do the trick nicely.
Lay sheets of newsprint between the plants and cover it over with plenty of your favorite mulch. The newspaper provides a light barrier which helps keep weeds out. The newspaper and mulch also help keep the soil moist and cool and help attract various worms which will aerate the soil.
Keeping the young plants cover4ed with ‘summer weight’ insect barrier or some tulle material can help reduce insect populations that would otherwise be drawn to the plants. Keep the cover off the plants with stakes or hoops and raise it as the plants grow.
Snap beans, cucumbers and summer squash should go into the ground about 12 to 14 weeks before the first frost date. Cilantro, lettuce, radishes, parsnips and rutabagas also get planted at this time.
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, fennel, kale, kohlrabi and parsley seedlings should be planted at the 10 to 12 week mark before the frost date. Sow seeds directly in the garden at this time for beets, carrots, collards, leeks and scallions along with a second batch of lettuce and radishes.
Asian greens and vegetables like Chinese cabbage, pac choi, tatsoi as well as arugula, lettuce, spinach, mustard and turnips should be directly sown at the 8 to 10 week mark before the frost.
The last crops go in at the 6 to 8 week mark. This includes spinach and the last batch of lettuce. Just as that frost date arrives, plant the shallots and the garlic for harvesting next spring.