Thursday, August 28, 2008

Want a Better Garden Next Year? Plant In The Fall!

Have you been disappointed with your garden this year? Or perhaps it was great and you can't wait to do it again. Whichever scenario fits your garden, you may be thinking of how next year’s garden is going to be SO MUCH BETTER!

One way to help improve next year’s garden is to plant some of it this fall. Such crops as asparagus, garlic, leaks, onions, and strawberries are naturals for fall planting, because they take a long time to grow, and the extra months, even with only a few growing days, help them develop a good root system.

Garlic is especially good for fall planting because as a cool season crop it thrives in the early spring, thus getting a substantial head-start on the growing season, and experiments have shown that your garlic yield may even be doubled by planting in the fall.

All but onions can be planted two to four weeks before the first frost for harvest the following summer. Water them immediately after planting.

Onions should be planted after the first frost. Planting earlier is not advised because any top growth they may send up will be damaged by winter cold. Watering is not advised for the same reason.

Other vegetable seeds that could be planted in the late fall include parsnips, lettuce, radishes, and spinach. Care must be taken to plant into dry ground and late enough that the seeds do not sprout, however, or the hard winter frosts will kill them. Obviously, no watering should be done in the fall on these crops.

Be sure to mark the beds well. Otherwise you may forget and till them up in the spring, wasting everything you’ve done. Your planted beds should be protected from the wind and have a good snow cover if possible, to prevent the seeds from blowing away, and to insulate the soil against sub-freezing temperatures.

Do not plant warm-season vegetables, such as beans, corn and tomatoes in the fall. Any growth during a warm spell in the spring will only set them up to be killed by later frosts.

Remember to put Pre-Plant and Weekly Feed fertilizer mixes into your soil-beds before planting. Use 32 ounces Pre-Plant and 16 ounces Weekly Feed for each 30’-long soil-bed, or 1 ounce and ½ ounce per running foot.

Before doing the work to prepare your beds and plant in the fall, please keep in mind that fall seeding is not 100% successful. When they are dry, seeds are quite tolerant of freezing temperatures; however, at very low temperatures or when even slightly moist, your seeds may be killed. And even if your seeds do survive the winter, germinate, and emerge in spring, later frosts may damage or kill the tender seedlings.

Even with the problems stated, many gardeners still plant in the fall. They often mature earlier crops, and sometimes even get larger yields. If you are adventurous and anxious to get a head start on the spring growing season you might want to try planting some things this fall.

Please remember, however, our general recommendation for most crops is to get the early start in the spring by planting and growing seedlings in a seedling greenhouse, or a cold frame or hotbed. You may also want to look into growing in the early spring using the “mini-greenhouses” described in other articles, on the Foundation’s website, and in Dr. Jacob Mittleider’s gardening books.

At the very least, asparagus, garlic, leaks, onions, and strawberries are always a good bet for fall planting, so if you enjoy eating any of them, now is a good time to put them into your garden.

Good fall gardening.

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