If you live in the southern portion of the United States where the weather is mild during the fall, you may continue to have a productive garden after your summer vegetables have been harvested. This article contains tips to making the most out of the fall growing season.
First of all, your choice of vegetables to plant for a fall garden is extremely important. Common autumn crops in the south are lettuce, kale, spinach, cabbage and peas. In the Deep South it is also possible to grow cucumbers, tomatoes and squash as a fall crop. Melons and hard squash have also been known to grow in the fall.
It is very important to fully understand the fall planting schedule for your area. The planting schedule is determined by the average date of the first frost. If you live in the northern region of the South, then you will usually need to plant your fall garden no later than mid-August. If you live further south, you will probably want to wait until mid-September. You may need to call your local extension office to find out the date of the first frost. From that date, count backwards the average maturation time to determine the exact date for planting each particular vegetable.
Another question people often ask is should they use seeds or plants for a fall garden. Some people prefer to use seeds, as they enjoy watching the plant develop from a tiny seed all the way to producing vegetables. If you choose to use seeds for autumn gardening, it is important to germinate them indoors where it is cooler as they cannot tolerate the heat of late summer. When ready to transplant outdoors, it is best to gradually acclimate them to the warmer temperatures by taking them outdoors for part of the day. It may also be necessary to start from seeds, as garden centers may not have much selection of plants for autumn gardening.
Watering your autumn garden is as important in the fall as it is in the summer. Your plants may need as much as 1.5 inches of water each week. The best way to water your garden is with a soaker hose or drip irrigation, or spray it with a fine mist early in the morning. Harsh watering can be damaging to the plants. It is best to try to water all at once for the week to encourage maximum root growth.
You may also want to plant your fall garden in a zigzag pattern to make the most of a small garden area. This will allow you to plant more plants while maintaining the proper distance between plants. When harvesting, try using a cut-and-come-again approach to keep your plants producing longer. This works best with cabbage and broccoli. By cutting the main head high on the stalk, this will allow the plants to produce shoots and produce more heads.
Now that you know the basics of fall gardening, you are ready to have fresh vegetables on your table later this fall. While not all vegetables can be grown in the autumn, there are plenty that will fill your garden area.