Why Not Give a Late Summer or Fall Garden a Try?
Summer is nearing its end. The back-to-school ads are rolling out, and soon the weather will be getting cooler and the days shorter. It must be time to think about the end of this year’s garden, right? Well, not so fast. There are many ways to continue a garden well into the fall. Gardening in late summer can be just as rewarding as gardening during the spring and early summer. There are some important differences, though, so be aware of them. It just takes some adjustments and a little research.
Late Summer Gardening Tips
Late summer gardening requires a bit more care in preparation than regular gardening. With fall fast approaching, the weather is going to get cooler and the first frost is not that far away. Check for average temperatures in the area in late September and early October, especially the average low temperature. This will give a good idea of when the freezing point will come. When choosing which crops to plant, it is important to consider those that mature quickly. Carrots, cucumbers, spinach, and beets are fast growers and can reach maturity before the cold weather sets in. Carrots can reach maturity in as little as 50 days, while spinach can do so in around 40, and radishes in half that time.
Alternatively, there are plants that are more resistant to the cold weather. Hardier plants stand a much better chance to survive in the fall. Kale, broccoli, and parsnips can tolerate those frosty early mornings. Get to planting those in the next week or so for best results in the fall. If you prefer flowers, wildflowers and perennials are best when planted in the fall. There are still many colorful options available to fall gardeners to take advantage of, including Red Poppies, Black-Eyed Susans, and the always popular daffodils. The adventurous gardener can go for tulips, which need to be planted very soon after the first frost of the season.
Most importantly, remember to water the garden adequately. The intense heat of later summer can wreak havoc on plants if they are not properly watered. A thin layer of organic mulch can help the soil to retain moisture during this time. Be vigilant during the late summer and avoid disaster during the hottest time of the year by ensuring the garden is receiving enough water to thrive. As always, be careful not to overwater the garden, as that will cause problems of its own.
Putting Together a Fall Garden
The gardening season can carry on right into the fall. A fall garden can extend the fun of gardening for a few more months before the winter doldrums set in. In order to have a successful fall gardening season, proper preparations have to be made. A garden’s soil is depleted after the traditional gardening season. Months of feeding growing plants takes its toll on the soil, sapping it of the vital nutrients any garden needs. Using compost or organic fertilizer before planting fall crops will revitalize the soil and result in a more successful fall garden. Be careful not to overdo it with the compost, though. A light covering should be enough to do the job.
In order to avoid soil erosion over the winter, consider planting a cover crop. Cover crops are typically from the legume family and are planted between rows of other crops. Cover crops are not harvested, but serve to protect the soil and act as a deterrent to weeds and insects. Taking the time to plant a cover crop will pay dividends in the spring when the soil will be better prepared for the new gardening season.
One positive aspect of a fall garden is that the insect problem is much less than in the normal gardening season. Insects are less prevalent during the colder months. Still, it is necessary to keep an eye on the garden just as if it were the regular season, as some pests can still cause problems even during cooler times. Watch out for any vegetables that become overripe as they will attract more pests.
If you have a greenhouse, you can move plants to it before the season gets too cold. If not, make sure to stay vigilant around the garden. Be especially vigilant during those first cold mornings to check for frost. There is a lot of fun to be had by gardening during the fall, but it does require some adjustments from the norm to get positive results.