fall planting

At the end of August, most people are wrapping up their gardens. But, if you’re just getting started, then roll up your sleeves, because you have work to do! Fall planting is fun, and you can really extend your harvest season. Plus, it’s so much more pleasant to be outside during the Fall as opposed to the hot, steamy, dog days of summer.

Fall is a great season for a variety of leafy greens and root vegetables. However, planting a fall garden isn’t quite the same as a summer one. It’s important to keep track of your area’s frost date, and work backwards from there. Planting too early can cause the vegetables to become tough, while planting too late might prevent them from reaching a decent size.

Choose Your Timing

Most places, you can harvest a bit past the first frost, as long as nighttime temperatures stay in the double digits. The main problem is that the lower temperatures will temper vegetables’ growth, so your harvest won’t be as bountiful. As a general rule, try planting for a fall garden in early August, but you can certainly still plant now!

Some vegetables grow faster than others. Take a look at the seed packets to find out how long they take to mature, since each kind will have a different maturity date. For many parts of the country, the first frost date is between October 15th and October 30th but it depends on where you live. Check your areas predicted frost dates to find out when you can plant. Radishes, scallions, turnips and leafy greens all tend to be fast growers, so even if you get a later start, you can still pull off a decent harvest!

Sow the Seeds

If you want to get the most out of your fall garden, try starting your seeds inside. The end of summer can be a tad unpredictable, weather wise. Taking the plants through scorching sun, dry spells, and drenching rains can be a bit of a shock for them. Planting them inside first protects them and gives them a better chance to get established.

There are plenty of other benefits to using a seed starter, but in this case, the main one is being able to choose exactly when you plant. If you think it’s already planting time, then go ahead and buy sprouted plants. That should knock about 2 weeks off of your planting time, which could be a big help if you’ve gotten a later start!

However, remember to read the seed packets! Some plants do better being sown directly into the ground. If that’s the case, the packet will say so.

Get to Planting

Once your seedlings are big enough and the weather seems to be cooperating, it’s time to drop those babies in the ground! If you’ve planted a few varieties directly as seeds, then you should make sure to thin them before they get too big.

If you’ve started them indoors, it’s important to spend about a week prepping them for life outdoors. Moving them straight outside is likely to shock them, which will slow growth at best and kill them at worst. Instead, place them outside in a protected area for a few hours, then bring them back in. Gradually increase the time over the next week, until you can leave them out overnight. This process is called hardening off, and it helps your plants adjust. After that, pop those kids in the ground!

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Wait for the Harvest

The last thing to do is to simply wait for the harvest! Watch the soil and sun, and make sure to care for your plants as the weather dictates. Keep an eye on the weather forecast as well. Even if the frost comes before you get to harvest, you can still pull root vegetables. You can usually pick them a bit later, as long as you can get to them before the ground gets very cold. Be warned, they won’t grow very much once it gets that cold! It’s best to go ahead and harvest them if you can. As far as leafy greens go, you do want to snag them before it gets too cold. Frost is not kind to leaves.

If you’re still wondering if you’re too late to plant a fall garden, the answer is no. But you will be, if you wait much longer!