One of my favorite parts about gardening is how it connects us with the rhythms of nature. As the vibrant days of summer, and the bright blooms that come with it, begin to fade, fall and its heartier plants are getting ready for their time in our gardens.
While it is still quite hot here in Leiper's Fork, Leila has already started preparing the Bloomerie for the upcoming season, transitioning summer crops to their autumn counterparts. While spring & summer get most of the attention, fall is one of our favorite seasons to work in the garden. If you've never planted during this time of year, here are our tips for starting an autumn garden.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT PLANTS & TOOLS
Fall gardens offer a unique opportunity to grow a variety of vegetables that thrive in the cooler temperatures. We love to grow a variety of annuals like leafy greens, root vegetables, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, and herbs like parsley, cilantro, and chives. Be sure to check for your first average frost date so you can see how long your plants will have to mature before temperatures drop.
When it comes to planting perennials, one of the best ways to figure out what you can plant is to look at your hardiness zone. These zones are determined upon your average lowest temperature, and allow you to discern what plants can survive your upcoming winter weather.
Another important thing to consider when starting your garden is the tools you will be working with. We always recommend starting with a trowel for planting, a cultivator for breaking up compaction, and a weeder for, well, weeding! If you are looking for a new set of tools, we have some brand new copper tools available that are beautiful and beneficial. Copper is a wonderful material to include in your tool belt as it doesn't rust, deters snails and slugs, enriches your soil with trace elements, & more!
PREPARING & PLANTING YOUR GARDEN BEDS
Proper bed preparation is essential for a successful fall garden. Remove any spent summer crops and weeds to provide a clean slate for your fall vegetables. Incorporate compost or well-rotted manure to enrich the soil and provide essential nutrients for your plants.
After your beds have been prepped, you can begin to plant your seeds or seedlings! When choosing where to plant what, consider what was planted in that bed prior seasons. Each family of crop (brassica, legume, etc.) take up different nutrients from the soil, and attract different diseases, so it is beneficial to rotate out families to keep your plants and soil healthy. For example, Leila is replacing our cucumbers with beans & a cover crop, as beans are "lighter feeders" (i.e they uptake less nutrients from the soil) and they replenish nitrogen.
Another tip when planting is you can almost always plant your plants a few inches closer than the spacing suggested on the back of packet, so you can have a more abundant harvest!
After planting, apply mulch or deseeded straw around your plants to help retain moisture, regulate soil temperature, and reduce weed growth. Covering your soil also helps prevent soil splashing back at your plants while you are watering or during heavy rains, which helps reduce disease pressure.
COVER CROPPING FOR SOIL HEALTH
If you want a lower maintenance fall garden, you can try cover cropping to help you prep for next year’s spring garden! Cover cropping is an excellent practice for maintaining soil health during the fall and winter months. We love to plant a mixture of crops for cover, as different plants have different benefits. Legumes help fix nitrogen, mustard greens help manage soil borne pests, and cereal grains suppress weed growth
Planting a fall garden is a delightful way to extend your gardening season and enjoy a fresh harvest well into the cooler months. So, gather your seeds, prepare your soil, and let's watch your fall garden flourish. I would love to hear your plans for your garden this season in the comments below. Happy planting!