Majority of the time vegetables are planted in the spring and are harvested gradually throughout summer. There are certain crops, however, that actually perform just as well, if not better, in the fall. Depending on your area, harvesting time can usually start in early September and last through November. Not all plants are great for fall vegetable gardening, but many cruciferous veggies do well, and can be harvested up until early days of November.
Some of the best vegetables to plant in late June are Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, spinach, kohlrabi, onions and cabbage. These should all be ready by end of October, or early November at the latest. Root vegetables like beets, radishes and carrots will need to be planted mid to late summer and harvested by the beginning of October.
As temperature starts to cool, and days become shorter, your fall garden vegetables will slow down in growth, but this is fine – this is just a natural occurrence and they will be fine in time for you to harvest them.
A neat way to keep the soil and plants in your raised bed warm during the fall months, and therefore extend their growing season, is by making a small greenhouse (or a cold frame) above the beds. Covering raised beds is easier than constructing a greenhouse above a large gardening area. Greenhouses are a great option for vegetables that you want to enjoy in the fall, but get easily damaged by frost. By creating warmer conditions for their growth, you can easily extend their season by at least a month or two.
A few useful tricks can allow you to make a small, yet sufficient greenhouse cover from plastic. Some gardeners use small greenhouses exclusively to grow certain varieties of cucumbers in cooler climates. This lets them begin planting in early spring, and continue growing well into the fall, while opening up the cover during the summer, as it can get too hot inside a greenhouse during warmer weather.
If you buy milk, or anything else that comes in large plastic jugs, save the leftover containers. You can later place them over your vegetables (with a bottom cut out) if there is a need to keep them warm in the fall, when time gets closer to freezing weather.
Another important aspect of fall vegetable gardening is to plant seeds that will germinate under a protective layer of mulch, remain dormant during the winter months, and then sprout up in the spring. Garlic is a great example of this type of vegetable – and if you’ve never had young garlic straight from the garden, you are missing out on one of the best treats of nature! (Assuming that you like garlic…)
Fall vegetable gardening carries many advantages for certain plants. For example, some pests can’t survive colder temperatures, and therefore will leave your fall crops alone. Some of the cruciferous vegetables mentioned above mature better in cooler weather. There is also more moisture retention in the ground, which means less maintenance on your part when it comes to watering your garden.
When planting a fall garden in late summer, consider placing your seeds a little deeper into the ground than you normally would. Top soil tends to get hot and dry in the summer, and you want your seeds in wetter, cooler conditions. You have to ensure adequate protection from heat for any vegetables that you plant in the summer. Young plants and seedlings need to be well watered during the initial growing stages, and even shaded from the sun in some instances (especially when they are just starting to grow).
Vegetables that can withstand a little bit of frost are potatoes, beets and carrots, celery, and lettuce. Others, which cannot tolerate frost and should be harvested in earlier fall are pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, beans, corn, cucumbers, and peppers.
Finally, to get the best results from your fall vegetable gardening, keep a planting journal so that you know how long it took each vegetable to grow and mature in your area. Check beforehand to see when your geographical area typically gets its first frost, so that you can plan your harvesting time for vegetables that are not well adapted to frost bites.
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