Successful Fall Vegetable Gardens?

Fall Vegetable Gardens
Over the past week or so I've noticed what I thought was an unusual trend at Lorenz's OK Seeds. We've had quite a few people coming into the store buying vegetable seed. My initial thought was that they were just planning ahead - getting ready for next year. However, as more people bought vegetable seed I began to wonder what was going on. When I got the chance I sat down with Freddie and quizzed him about this. Needless to say my first question was "whats with all these people buying vegetable seed at this time of the year?"
Fall Grown Vegetables

Fall Grown Vegetables

Fred first pointed out that the vast majority of the customers were people who were around retirement age or older. This is because "they know that fall gardening will result in excellent vegetables and will extend crops long after spring planted plants are finished. Vegetables produced in fall gardens are often sweeter and milder than summer grown veggies and this can add new taste to the same old veggies." He went on to state that "Many younger gardeners don't even consider fall gardening in case winter frosts make an early appearance." So, I asked "does this mean you can grow any type of vegetable in the fall?" The answer kind of surprised me. "Just like growing spring plants what you grow in the fall depends on what you like to eat, and how much space you have" said Freddie. " Even veggies like tomatoes, sweet potatoes, okra and peppers which prefer heat will produce up to the first frost. And remember, this can be pretty late in the southern parts of the US. On the other hand, plants like snap-beans, summer squash, and cucumbers will finish producing by the end of summer. But if you plant them sometime around the middle of the summer you can harvest them up until the first frost." "However (there's always a however isn't there) there's a few things you have to think about and you do have to do some planning. If you're going to plant fall veggies you're best off choosing vegetables with short growing seasons. This should ensure they're fully grown and can be harvested before the frost arrives.  The only reason we (Lorenz's OK Seeds) carry vegetable seed towards the end of summer is because we know there are people around Okeene who do grow fall vegetables. A lot of places don't carry seed this late in the summer. If you're planning to grow fall veggies there's nothing wrong with buying the seed you want in the spring or early summer just make sure you keep it in a cool dry place so the seed will keep." Freddie continued (once you get him started . . .well that's another story) "Hardy, tough vegetables can grow until the temperature gets down as low as 20 degrees. Less hardy plants will only grow through light frosts. You also need to remember if you have root and tuber plants putting a large amount of mulch around the base of the plant can help save the edible part even if the tops of the plant have been killed by a freeze! "So it's important to know when the first hard frost will hit" I asked? "You bet" replied Fred. "If you know that then you can work out when you need to start planting and that's why it's important to know exactly how long it'll take for your plants to mature." The best way to find out when the first hard frost will hit is by using The Old Farmer's Almanac 2010. They're generally pretty accurate and will give you an actual date so you can begin your planning based on that." "You also need to get your soil ready for fall planting. First you need to get rid of any left over spring/summer crops and any weeds. If you don't there's a chance that the previous seasons crops could spread disease and bacteria to your new plants. You may have to spread some mulch or compost over the area your going to plant to replace depleted nutrients. A couple of inches thick should do the job. But this depends on how much fertilizer you used during the main growing season. If you were a bit heavy handed you may not need to do this. It's also a good idea to till the top layer of the soil then wet it down and let it settle for about 24 hours. Once you've done all this your ready to start planting your fall veggie garden. If you're really keen to get a vegetable garden started Freddie mentioned a great book that he called the Bible of vegetable growing. He's right, and you really should check it out. So I guess the bottom line is that while there's a lot of gardeners who'll run a mile to avoid gardening with impending frosts and freezes there's also those crafty few who know that fall grown veggies can and do grow well. As long as you plan well fall gardening will let you enjoy your veggie garden and your own fresh produce well past what you may be used too. The following is a rough guide to help you know what to grow in your fall garden and how long the plants take to mature.

Plants that will reach maturity in about 90 days.

Leaf Crops
  • Brussells Sprouts
  • Cabbages
  • Fava Bean
  • Cauliflower
Root Crops
  • Carrots
  • Parsnip
  • Globe Onions
  • Beets

Plants that will reach maturity in about 60 days.

Root Crops
  • Early Carrots
  • Leek
  • Turnip
  • Kohlrabi
Leaf Crops
  • Early Cabbages
  • Winter Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Perennial Herbs

Plants that will reach maturity in about 60 days.

Root Crops
  • Chives
  • Bunching Onions
  • Radishes
Leaf Crops
  • Broccoli
  • Leaf Lettuces
  • Mustard
  • Spinach

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