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.
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.
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 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, 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.
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 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 be 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.
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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