A whopping 35 percent of U.S. households grow some of their food at home, either in a backyard or community garden.
In the warmer months of the year, this hobby's pretty clear-cut. You can grow a slew of different vegetables in spring and summer, and they grow with ferocity. You might end up harvesting way more tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers than you bargained for.
But in fall, you have fewer options of what you can plant. Not all vegetables can handle the cooling weather or the shortened days.
So, hedge your bets on these tried-and-true fall vegetables. They will thrive in the conditions and give you one last harvest before winter sets in.
Before you plan which fall vegetables to plant, you need to know the method for doing so.
You need to plant with your region's frost date in mind. This date will vary from location to location — homes in Meridian will probably experience the chill sooner than, say, households in the southeast.
Once you know the average fall frost date, you will count backward from it. Your vegetable seed packets will show how long they need to grow. Plant them so that they have enough time to do so before the first frost.
Most people count backward from the frost date through the entire growth cycle plus two weeks. This step gives plants a bit of extra wiggle room should they start to slow down as the days shorten.
To get your garden ready for fall vegetables, you need to get rid of the remnants of spring.
Start by plucking any plants that have slowed down or completely stopped growing. Your summer vegetables, such as tomatoes and peas, are probably ready for the compost pile. If you've already harvested all of the fruits or veggies from a particular plant, it, too, can go.
Next, get rid of any lingering weeds. They can slurp up the moisture that your fall vegetables will need to grow, thus stunting their growth.
Once you've done all of this, you will have some open beds in your garden. Pour two to three inches of compost into the holes where you'll plant your fall fruit and vegetables. They'll thrive in the nutrient-rich surroundings you've created for them.
Your best bet is to place them in the ground as seeds and let them grow into plants bearing fall fruit and vegetables. Most autumnal varieties drink about an inch of water each week.
When they're seeds, you'll want to water frequently in small amounts. But once they become seedlings, switch to once weekly waterings, giving them all of their hydration at once.
If the weather starts to get cooler earlier, you can keep frost at bay by covering your fall plants. You can invest in a row cover or blanket your greens under an old bed sheet or throw.
Now, here's the biggest question of all: which fall vegetables should you plant? Here are your best bets.
Kale's leaves taste sweeter if they're left to mature in colder weather. Surprisingly, it's even better when left beneath the frost or snow. So, no rush to harvest this vegetable, which you should plant six to eight weeks before the first frost.
Parsley needs 70 to 90 days to grow, so plan to sow it that far ahead of the first frost. It can survive in conditions ranging from partial shade to full sun.
Much like kale, spinach can stand up against winter weather, but only if it has reached maturity by the time snow starts falling. This plant does best with a row cover to protect it, though. Sow your spinach seeds between four and eight weeks before things ice over.
You'll have to start your broccoli seeds indoors and let them grow there for three weeks. Then, they're ready for a garden transplant. Keep in mind that this veggie doesn't like temperatures over 70 degrees, so don't move it outside too quickly.
Leeks also need to grow indoors first for 8 to 12 weeks before they can make the jump to your outdoor garden. Be sure to check when you're buying seeds that you've chosen a fall- or winter-ready variety, as not all leeks can survive the temperature drop.
Planting garlic now means you'll be able to enjoy it next year. So, if you're patient enough, plant it 365 days in advance — it takes that long to grow.
Turnips have no problem surviving light frosts during their two-month growth cycle. You can keep them well-protected with a layer of thick mulch over the top of them.
Plant radishes alongside your turnips, and you'll have two non-temperamental root vegetables by fall. These red veggies take only four weeks to grow, so check on them regularly — you don't want to leave them in the ground if they've already matured.
With beets, you get a two-for-one special. The purple vegetable takes 10 to 12 weeks to grow. While that's happening, you can pluck and eat the beet greens, although you shouldn't eat all of them, or it will stress the plant.
Cabbage needs an indoor start for 6 to 12 weeks before it's ready for outdoor planting. Be sure that you water your cabbage plant diligently, or else it won't taste sweet when it's time to harvest and eat.
Now you know how to care for your fall garden and how to select the best fall vegetables to fill it. All there's left to do is get started. So, head outside and start clearing out summer's greens for autumns — it's time to enjoy new flavors.
Need more gardening advice? Be sure to check back with us for our best tips and tricks.
Hello, I’m Laura Bennett. I love nature especially when it comes to flowers and different kinds of plants. I started a very small garden behind my house and I named it Humid Garden. So, I created this blog to provide aspiring and inspiring thoughts about gardening for gardeners and anyone who has the intention of keeping a garden.
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