The home gardener who is just getting the hang of planting beautiful landscape plants and edible crops almost always has one of two similar experiences once summer has made its appearance. You may suddenly realize that summer is in full swing and it’s far too late to begin planting for a summer harvest. Or, your garden is full of delicious food but that little voice in the back of your mind reminds you that summer will soon end and that garden, too, will disappear.
Successful summer growers often look toward Fall with a heavy heart, visualizing a dwindling landscape losing its vibrant colour as it moves toward the bleak, gray days of winter. Fortunately, however, the time between summer and autumn offers fertile grounds for growing another batch of edibles.
Timing Is Everything
First thing’s first, you must find out your region’s frost date and live by that number. Not quite sure? Run a quick online search or call up your local plant nursery before you get started.
Since the chill of frost is a surefire way to damage your crops, you’ll want to avoid planting them too late so your hard work doesn’t go to waste. Once you have that date, take a look at the seed packets for fall bearing veggies. The information on the packet will let you know how long the particular crop takes until it reaches maturity so you can count backwards from that frost date to ensure you’re planting early enough. A good rule of thumb is to add two weeks to that number for a buffer just in case temperatures drop earlier than expected – and because crops planted during the summer can take longer to mature due to cooler temps.
Even more helpful than randomly flipping through seed packets is getting your hands on a seed catalog which offers all of the information you’re searching for in one place.
What’s What For Fall Salad
When in doubt, plant greens. Leafy plants such as Swiss chard, collard greens, kale and lettuce stand up to cooler temperatures when those warm days turn chilly. If you’re trying your hand at an edible fall garden for the first time and plant a bit too late, these leafy veggies are still delicious even if you have to eat them a bit early. Fortunately, leafy crops are the fastest to mature (about one to two months), so whether you’re right on track or fumbling with a smile through your first experience, you’ll find success with salad.
For fans of potatoes and carrots, you’ll want to seed your garden about three months from your set harvest time. These delicacies take a while to develop, but since they thrive in cooler weather and are easy to plant, they’re a fantastic contender for adding a bulkier addition to your garden. Eventually they will brighten up your salads or make a warm, filling soup for chilly winter nights.
Add a few fun items to your garden such as green onions and cilantro. These crops take about two months to reach maturity and will spice up any dish. Or go for a bit of basil for a speedy one to two month crop to perk up your pasta.
Tips For A Bountiful Harvest
It would be amazing if you could just toss those seeds anywhere and wake up come autumn to a heavenly edible garden, but a few tips will help you create a much more organized and dependable experience.
Keep your soil cool
It’s still super hot out? Unless your little garden patch has the natural partial shade of nearby plants, purchase shade netting to partially block out the sun’s rays if your daily temps are still reaching over 27 degrees Celsius.
Those seeds need moisture to germinate and grow. The upper inch of soil should remain moist to the touch – if this is not the case then your soil is too dry. Irrigate to maintain moist soil but avoid creating wet conditions. Always make sure you’re gardening with soil that has good drainage for optimal results.
Take a good look at your garden on a daily basis. Scout for weeds (pull them by hand) and pests (remove them by hand, too, or contact a professional if something just isn’t right).
With just a little hard work and the realization that your edible garden can continue well into autumn, you’ll spend the cooler months with a table full of straight-from-the-garden fare.
By Tarah Damask