Planting a Fall Garden
The month of September is always welcome. Temperatures range from hot to mild and back to hot again every few days it seems. It’s a sign of the change in seasons, one we love for so many reasons - college football and hunting, to name a few.
While August is the best time to plant a fall garden, there’s still time this month if you live in a region with a milder climate and infrequent frosts, such as the South. Crops need enough time to mature before hard frosts set in for good. Here are a few fast growing options that you can plant now before winter sets in, as well as a few varieties you can harvest all winter long.
Lettuce is a hardy vegetable that grows best in cool temperatures - usually between 75 and 45 degrees. You can harvest it anytime as long as you don’t get too many hard freezes. You can plant in either partial shade or full sun, between four to eight weeks before the first frost. Lettuce does well in loose, drained soil. Sow about four inches apart and cover with about a half inch of soil.
Radishes only need about a month to mature and can withstand some light frosting. That means you may be able to plant twice before it gets too cold. Plant three to four seeds per inch and thin them to one seedling per inch after germination. Ensure you harvest just as they’re maturing because if left too long they’ll get too large, losing some flavor and texture. We like the French breakfast variety, but you can’t go wrong with any.
This plant tolerates frost very well and prefers full sun. Establish in about two feet apart in well drained soil. Be sure to water regularly, which will give the plant a sweet flavor.
When planting a fall garden, consider when the first frost in your area will be. Plants that tolerate cold weather are ideal.
Be sure to plant spinach in full to partial sun from four to eight weeks before the first hard freeze. It’s a very hardy vegetable and when mature can survive in below-freezing temperatures. This is a plant that keeps on giving during the winter. Harvest the outer leaves, leaving new growth to mature, which will provide in the near future.
Carrots mature in about 70 days, which is one of the longest periods on this list. But, with proper care, the plants will last through cold weather just fine. Sow the seeds six to eight inches apart. Once they germinate, you may need to thin them out to allow for maximum growth. To protect them from frost, put some organic straw over the crowns of the carrots. Once mature, they’ll keep for weeks until pulled. Often, you’ll see the crowns popping up out of the dirt, notifying you that they’re ready to be harvested.
Two months after planting, you’ll have mature broccoli. Be sure to sow seeds in full sun. This is a plant that soaks up a lot of nitrogen, so use blood meal in the soil. Broccoli is able to withstand cold temperatures, especially sprouting broccoli, which are non-heading varieties.
Plant kale at least two months before the first frost. As an added bonus, kale leaves taste sweeter when matured in cold weather. Frosts? No problem. Kale can survive in some of the nastiest winter weather. Space the seeds about two feet apart and water well.
We love arugula for its spicy flavor. Plant about 12 inches apart. It matures in about a month, so you can have several harvests before winter sets in. The plant is quite fragile, however, and doesn’t grow well in high heat or extremely cold temperatures. Like spinach, pick the outer leaves and the plant will continue to provide.
You’ll have fresh vegetables for much of the early winter and, when spring returns, it’ll be time to plant again. Remember to keep your eyes peeled when walking around your property for natural forage such as acorns. Coupled with your bountiful garden, you’ll have a complete meal sourced from right outside your doorstep.