Fall Gardening Ideas

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The fall is a wonderful time to get into the backyard and do many different things. After a long hot summer just the fact that it is cooler outside seems to give you more energy for outdoor clean up and maintenance.

If you are a gardener then the garden is definitely a place where you can catch up various things you need to do after your spring and summer growing seasons. There are also vegetables you can plant in the fall that will grow through winter.

As temperatures get colder deciduous trees start to lose their leave’s. The chore of picking them up can be a bothersome affair. This can be made easier if you have kids to help you with it.

Leaf Blowers

Another way to make this chore easier is by using a leaf blower. A good quality leaf blower can save time and effort by easily herding the leave’s into one big pile making it easier to bag them up. The larger your backyard is the easier a leaf blower makes chore in the fall.

Composting

However, if you have a vegetable garden or any type of garden for that matter you might want to consider using the leave’s to make compost. It is leave’s that provide the basis for any compost pile.

A compost pile consists of fallen tree leave’s, any dead plants you may have from the summer, lawn clippings, vegetable scraps, egg shells, tea bags and coffee grounds. You can even add on a bag of cow manure to speed up the decomposition process.

Compost will turn into a nutrient rich soil amendment that you can add to your gardens soil as soon as it is ready.

Chicken wire works very good for a compost pile. You can attach it to a fence or tie in a circle and throw leave’s in there. Add household scraps as you get them. Rain or frequent waterings help to break the materials down.

Frequent turning of the pile, every 3 to 7 days, is necessary to keep the pile aerated. This is because the microbes in the compost need oxygen to provide the decomposition.

An easier way to compost is to use a compost bin. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. Just fill it with your leave’s, clippings and table scraps and turn it every 3 or 4 days. Either method will give you more compost in less time.

Gardeners often use the term “Black Gold” when referring to compost. It is a natural, non chemical, fertilizer that adds many nutrients and beneficial microbes to your soil.

Planting Fall Vegetables

-Above Ground Vegetables-

After your summer vegetables have all ripened and there are none left to harvest now is the time to start thinking about planting fall vegetables.

This is also a good time to check the PH of your soil. PH test kits are available online or at your local garden center. Most plants prefer a neutral PH of between 6.0 and 7.0.

Vegetables prefer a certain PH level because it helps them to absorb the nutrients from the soil properly and it is going to vary from vegetable to vegetable what PH works best for them.

If the PH is below 6.0 it is to alkaline and if it is above 7.0 you need to make it more acidic. These additives are also available at your local garden center.

Depending on what climate zone you live in will depend on when you will have your first freeze and how cold it will get in your area. As a general rule it is best to start a fall garden somewhere between late July and early August.

Some of the best vegetables you can plant in the fall are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and collards. All of these belong to the cole crop family (Brassica oleracea) and are considered a cool-season vegetable.

Broccoli

Broccoli is actually one of the easier plants to grow and also one of the most nutritious. Along with a large abundance of vitamin C broccoli also contains Vitamin A, Calcium, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin B-12, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium and Protein.

For the top results’ broccoli should be planted in full sun. A fertile, well draining, soil that is slightly acidic works the best. Adding 2 to 4 inches of your compost will give it all the nutrients it needs. If your compost pile is not ready yet you should get a good quality soil amendments at your local garden center.

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts, which are names after the Belgium city, are another vegetable that grows great in the fall under certain conditions. They prefer a cooler climate and are slow growing.

For a fall harvest they should be planted around mid to late summer which means a northern area will have better luck with them then a southern climate. Brussels sprouts can hold up to a frost.

Brussels spouts are low in calories and contain Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Folate, Manganese, Protein and Fiber.

Brussels sprouts should get at least 6 hours of sun a day and grow best with a slightly higher PH of above 6.5. They also prefer a well draining, nutrient rich compost.

A great tip for growing Brussels sprouts is to crop the top of the plant approximately one month before harvesting. This will teach the plant to divert more nutrients into the sprouts rather than the leave’s.

Cabbage

Cabbage should be planted 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost. You can check on line as to when the first frost usually is in your location. When cabbage is grown in a cool climate it turns out a lot sweeter than in a warmer climate.

Cabbage needs at least 6 hours or more of full sun a day. Rich fertile organic matter that is well draining works best for growing cabbage. They prefer a somewhat neutral soil PH. Between 6.5 and 6.8 will give you the best harvest.

Cabbage contains vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin B1, manganese, potassium, folate, copper and fiber. Cabbage also contains an abundance of antioxidants, flavonoids and phenols.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is another cool weather vegetable that should be planted 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost. It is more sensitive to temperatures than other vegetables. The temperature should be below 75 degrees before planting and preferably in the 60s while growing.

Same growing tips as the other fall vegetables. At least 6 hours of sunlight a day and planted in well draining, nutrient rich soil and a PH of 6.5 to 6.8.

Cauliflower contains protein, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, panothenic acid, potassium, manganese, fiber and vitamin C, K and B6.

There are many different kinds of recipes for cauliflower including using as a meat substitute or for a pizza crust.

Collard Greens

Collard greens are one of the best vegetables you can grow in the fall because they tolerate frost real well. In fact the frost will give the collard greens a better flavor.

Collards are a dark leafy green vegetable that prefer full sun and moist rich compost for the best growth. They have a larger PH range from between 6 to 7.5.

Collard greens contain protein, vitamin A, E, C, K and B6. They also contain thiamin, niacin, magnesium, phophorus and potassium. There is also small amounts of fiber, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron and manganese.

Once just a staple of southern cooking they are now enjoyed everywhere. Used in everything from stews to salads and gumbo. The dark leave’s means it contains a lot of nutrients.

-Planting Root Vegetables-

Root vegetables are grown underground and after your summer harvest is the perfect time to do this. While there are numerous vegetables that can be grown underground here are 5 that you might enjoy growing.

Carrots

Carrots are one of the most prominent and easiest vegetable to grow and there are several varieties to choose from. They usually take 70 to 80 days to mature so depending on what climate zone you live in.

You should plant them 2 1/2 to 3 months before the first frost although they can tolerate frost to some degree.

Carrots are grown from seeds and should be planted 3 to 4 inches apart, in rows that are a foot apart, and 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep in a very loose, well draining soil. Having about a inch layer of compost will help the seeds to germinate.

Full sun works best but a little shade won’t hurt. A PH of 5.8 to 6.8 works best. Carrots contain vitamins A, K and B6. They also contain biotin and potassium.

Turnips

Turnips are great vegetable to grow for two reasons. They are an easy crop to maintain and both the green tops and the bulb can be harvested. Fall turnips, because it is cooler, turn sweeter than ones grown in the spring.

This is another root vegetable that is grown from seed and they take about 5 to 10 weeks to harvest depending on the temperature. The warmer the soil the faster the growth. Much like carrots, turnips do best in full sun but partial shade is okay.

Turnips should be planted first about an inch apart and then after they have grown for a while, you can thin well growing seedlings 4 to 6 inches apart. The rows should be 12 to 24 inches apart.

The soil PH for turnips has a wide range of 5.5 to 6.8 and should be well draining and rich in organic matter or compost.

Turnips and there greens are one of the most nutrient rich vegetables there is. They contain vitamins A, C, K, E, B1, B3, B5, B6, B2 and folate. They also contain the mineral’s manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids and protein.

Rutabagas

Rutabagas are a root vegetable that is a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. Rutabagas can be planted and grown in the same fashion as turnips so just follow the instructions above.

Rutabagas contain vitamin C and B6, thiamine and folate. It also contains the minerals’ calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and manganese.

Beets

Another root vegetable that is easy to grow at home are beets. They only take about 7 or 8 weeks to grow to maturity and are a lot sweeter and tastier when grown in cooler weather.

You should plant the seeds 1 to 2 inches apart in loose well draining soil. Beets grow well with partial shade however the roots need to reach at least 3 to 6 inches down without running into tree roots. A slightly acidic PH of 6.0 to 6.8 will work best for beets.

Beets contain vitamin C, iron, potassium, manganese, folate and fiber.

Parsnips

Parsnips are a root vegetable that actually tastes better if it is picked after a hard frost. This makes them one of the last vegetables you can plant in the autumn and one of the last to harvest.

In fact if you cover them with a thick layer of mulch throughout the winter you will be able to harvest them after the ground thaws in the spring.

Again loose, well draining nutrient rich soil work best to plant them in. Parsnips will require looses soil down to about !2 to 15 inches because they grow deep.

Parsnips contain potassium, folate, vitamin C, manganese and fiber.

You should notice the amount of vitamins, minerals’ and fiber these vegetables contain. These plants, especially the root vegetables, have been feeding mankind from the Prehistoric days through the Greek Empire and the Roman Empire.

There are so many different types of vegetables that can be eaten raw or cooked in so many different ways that getting all the nutrients you need to maintain a healthy body should not be a problem.

Since all root vegetables are grown underground they can handle a frost. Some more than others. What they cannot handle is a hard freeze. So make sure you harvest before your first hard freeze comes along.

All plant, not just vegetables, prefer a loose well draining soil because their roots need oxygen from the atmosphere to b
e able to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients. And yes there is oxygen down in the soil if it is loose fitting.

That is why it is so important to start with an organically nutrient rich soil or compost. You should water thoroughly and let it dry between waterings. Different types of soil, sandy on one hand and clay on the other, will require different types of maintenance.

Another thing about growing your own vegetables is you can control the amount and what type of herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers you use on them. Preferably you can find an organic version of each instead of using chemically made ones.

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A word about Greenhouses.

Greenhouses can extend your fall growing season further into winter. Greenhouses come in all shapes and sizes to fit any backyard.

The benefits of a greenhouse are while letting the sun in the panels help to warm the interior by holding in and retaining the sun’s radiation.

Although they might not as prominent in colder weather, as they are in warmer weather, pests and predators like rodents, squirrels and deer are kept at bay when your plants are in a greenhouse.

You are able to protect your plants better from extreme weather, like high winds, thunderstorms and below freezing temperatures better when they are in a greenhouse.

Growing vegetables for yourself, your family and possibly your neighbors is a very rewarding experience. If you are an avid gardener then you will realize the added benefits of having a second growing season.

I hope this article has educated and helped you on the benefits of growing different types of vegetables in the fall and winter months. Any comments or suggestions please leave them below.

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16 thoughts on “Fall Gardening Ideas

  1. Hi David,

    thanks for this detailed post. My sister is a vegetarian and she recently mentioned that she wants to start her own organic garden, so I think that this post will surely help her. I really like that you put what vitamines and minerals vegetables contain.

    Regards,

    Strahinja

    1. If she needs any tips please have her E-mail me. As you can see all vegetables contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals.

  2. Oh how I enjoyed your review of all the fall vegetables and timetables.  You must not live in the South where our falls (even winters) are so unpredictable.  We’ve grown all of the veggies you mentioned with the exception of rutabagas (which I love to add to ham and pork) and parsnips.  Usually when we grow broccoli here, we tend to manage a stink bug infestation at the same time….Yuck!

    All the best to you and your garden!

    SharonRPh

    1. I live in north Texas and find that the summer heat can sometimes be incredibly hard on a vegetable garden. After a hot summer this year my bell peppers and my sweet potatoes are both growing in abundance. Great tip on adding rutabagas to ham or pork.

  3. I love being outside but never had much luck with gardening. I love looking at seed catalogs and all the different varieties of EVERYTHING! One would never think that one type of watermelon could have 30 different varieties! It’s amazing:) I’ve actually considered the greenhouse idea several times. What kind of green house would you recommend for a beginner like me? Are there any gardening books that could maybe help turn my brown thumb green?? Loved all the info, thank you!:)

  4. I never realized so many things could be grown in the fall!  Your website has so much good information that I had to bookmark it to remember everything!  My wife and I have been talking about building a greenhouse, but we really don’t know very much about it.  As that food costs stay on the rise, I think its a good ides to know your way around the garden!  Thanks for the great information!    Clay

  5. I never thought about fall vegetables. Might be the difference in the zones HUH?  I do agree with you that there is so much to do in the fall. My rain gutters…oh dear. I like the idea of a compost bin. Might just have to look into that. Right now I just pile everything up and burn it.  Thanks for the info it was great!

    1. Gardening has the ability to grow on you the more you do it. Root vegetables will definitely have an advantage in the fall since they can handle cooler temperatures and a frost. I would suggest you try a compost pile for a season if you like doing it.

  6. I love your post, I would like to have a garden 🙁 It is incredible the benefits we can have is we sow our own vegetables. Also it is very useful to prepare our own compost. Thank you for teaching us how to prepare it.One time I had a plant of oregano, I like it to cook and to treat may family with the common cold -oregano tea plus bees honey. The situation was that I didn’t have soil, what to do? I sow my oregano plant in the coffee grounds that I got after my morning coffee 🙂 it was there for a year, later I took it out in a pot with soil. I have it after 4 years :):)Thank you for share this excellent post.

    1. What an innovative idea to use coffee grounds to grow oregano. I love it and will have to try that. Tell me, does that work for a cold, oregano and bees honey?

  7. My sons and I started gardening for the first time ever this summer.  I have been thinking about doing a compost pile, and your instructions were just what I needed.  Like the turning of the compost pile every few days, I would not have known to do that.  Thanks for the great info.

    Babs

    1. I appreciate your compliment. Turning a compost pile every now and then helps to make sure it will all get broken into nutrient rich compost at the same rate.

  8. Ok I am ready to begin my garden but DO NOT know where to begin. I suppose to begin building my composte bin which should be fairly easy, however I want to be ready to begin next year, and I have a pice of land to begin. Should I just turnover the soil now or before I plant next year?

    You gave a thorough explanation on how to plant in the fall which gives me the confidence to begin. I just don’t know where/how to begin? I can remember my dad having a garden growing up. and eating some of the most freshest produce. Looking forward to you helping me get started.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Shannon

    1. I would turn the soil over and add nutrient rich soil or compost right before I started planting. If you started raking leaves in the fall and started building your compost pile it will probably be ready for a spring planting.

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