Even as summer begins to wind down, despite what you may think it’s not too late to try your hand at gardening this year. Although you might not be able to grow lush tomatoes or peppers that thrive in hot weather, you can grow heartier vegetables, lettuces, root vegetables, and peas. If you start planning now, come September and October and even into November, you can still enjoy healthy, homegrown produce from a fall garden.
One tool I’ve found useful for planning my garden is SmartGardener.com. If you’ve never made a garden before, this site can walk you through step by step from picking the plants to grow for your zone, planning where to put you plants in your garden, scheduling when to water your plants, and telling you when to harvest them. It’s a fantastic resource if you’ve never gardened before and it’s free to register for. I found Smart Gardener an invaluable resource when I started my summer garden and will surely help you with your fall garden.
Even if you opt out of Smart Gardener, the first thing you need to know for your fall garden is what growing zone you’re in, which you can do easily either with a quick Google search or by speaking with a garden expert at your local greenhouse. Knowing which zone you live in tells you the optimal time to plant your seeds for germination and growth. Even though you are planting a fall garden, some fall vegetable plant seeds need to be sown now in order to germinate and harden off for fall.
For example, I wanted to start some sugar snap peas, but because I planted them too early they died from the extreme heat we’ve had in Michigan the past few weeks. Same goes for the cilantro I tried growing. Had I paid attention more closely and read that these plants grew better in cooler weather, I wouldn’t have wasted my time planting them and watching them slowly die.
What plants should you consider for your fall garden? Root vegetables like radishes, carrots, or turnips, onions, garlic or potatoes are great choices. Many leafy greens like kale, spinach, mustard green, and lettuces thrive in cold weather. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower are also great choices for your fall garden. Several varieties of peas also grow well and will grow harvestable produce well into November in my gardening zone.
Whether you use the space from your summer garden or even if you are creating a new space for your fall garden, proper soil preparation is imperative. However, you don’t have to go out and buy expensive fertilizers or special potting soil if you can’t afford it. You can try used coffee grounds, crushed egg shells, or dead leaves from the yard to fertilize your garden soil. I’ve found used coffee grounds once every two weeks in our garden keeps the soil nutrient rich. Mix in the fertilizer and till the soil so it’s nice and loose for the new plants.
If you’ve put off a garden because it’s too late or you just don’t want to weed in the middle of summer because it’s too hot, try a fall garden. The weather is cooler so you aren’t burning up working in the sun, plus not as many summer bugs are out to eat up your plants.
Why not grab a few pots or start a small garden bed for the fall and try growing some vegetables? Not only can you save a little money, but you’re also growing healthy produce for you and your family.