If you’re not planning to have a Fall garden, you are snoozing on the best gardening of the year. You can grow things in the Fall that don’t do well in the Summer AND you can be a lot more comfortable doing it.
Cooler temperatures. It’s such a relief when the temperatures no longer eclipse the 100 mark. Even here in Texas where it’s still hitting the 90s most days, it’s so much better for working in the garden than it has been. (And it’ll only get better) Because it is cooler, this also means you don’t have to spend as much time watering. It rains more, and when you do have to water it doesn’t evaporate as quickly. Finally, a lot of plant diseases thrive in the heat, so as it cools off you won’t struggle with as much fungal and other diseases.
Some popular fall crops include lettuce, spinach, kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots, beets, and turnips.
Another huge advantage of a Fall garden is that the pest pressure is MUCH lower than in the spring. For instance, in the Spring if I try to grow broccoli, those cutworms are all over the place. In the Fall I don’t see them at all.
So now I have you convinced to have a Fall Garden. Where do you start?
Your first step is to find out the average first frost date where you live. A simple Google search reveals that, for me, the first frost date will be sometime around November 20. This means that I have almost two months to play with. When you look on a seed packet, it estimates how long from planting to harvest. If it isn’t a crop that is frost hearty, plant varieties that will mature before old man winter comes to call on your garden.
There are, however, crops that will thrive with a light frost. Cabbage, broccoli, spinach, kale, and brussels sprouts to name a few. When you plant these, you can grow past your frost date.
One challenge of the Fall garden is that it is harder to find vegetable starts. Places that have lots of plants in the spring, don’t carry them in the Summer. I was just at H-E-B and they did have some starts, but the prices were ridiculous. For instance, it was $5.97 for a six-pack of small cabbage plants. Assuming everything thrives and you do get six heads of cabbage…you do the math. You probably know how I feel about seed starting and it’s particularly important in the Fall. Lots of crops do well with direct seeding. Root crops like carrots and beets don’t even like to be transplanted. You may have to plan ahead even with seeds. I was at Lowes last weekend and the only seeds they had in the whole store were grass seeds.
So. Have I convinced you? Are you ready to grab a seed package and get started? I hope so. See you in the garden.