Even though our favorite summer veggies and fruits are still going strong, it’s not too early to get in gear if you plan to have a fall garden. Start now and you just might have some garden-fresh produce before Thanksgiving.
How to Get Started First, make sure your garden plot has organically enriched soil and adequate water. Choose crops suited to fall growing conditions. Seeds and transplants will grow quickly in the warm soil of early September. When deciding what to plant for fall, focus on greens and root vegetables. Just a few of the vegetables you can grow in the fall are: leafy greens such as lettuces, spinach, arugula and chard; root veggies such as beets, carrots, and turnips; brassicas including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale and Chinese cabbage; and peas. In many regions, some of these fall crops will survive the winter to produce a second harvest in spring.
Here in the Deep South where winters are mild, you may even have time to get in a fall crop of tomatoes, okra, peppers, eggplant and winter squash before the weather gets too cold. Plant these first and hold off on planting cool-weather crops until after temperatures begin to drop – in late September or after.
When to Plant To determine starting dates for your fall garden plants, check the “days to maturity” in the seed catalog or on the seed packet. Add an extra week or two to factor in fall’s shorter day lengths, which delay plant maturity. Then to determine your ideal planting date, count backward, subtracting the days to maturity from your average first fall frost date (find yours at the National Climatic Data Center).
Start broccoli and cabbage seeds indoors (September soil temps may be too hot still), then transplant them to the garden about four weeks later, when temperatures are cooler and seedlings are large enough to compete against weeds. Direct-seed greens, carrots, beets and other root crops into prepared beds. If you’re planting your fall garden in soil that has already fed a spring planting, replenish beds with organic fertilizer and/or compost before planting. Seeds and transplants take off quickly in warm soil with adequate water. To help retain soil moisture, surround seedlings with a thick layer of mulch. Finely shredded leaves or straw will keep soil moist while slowly contributing organic matter to the soil as they decompose.
Harvest early and often. Frequent cutting stimulates continual new growth and gives you plenty of chances to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
What to Plant Get inspired for your fall garden. With the list of some common cool weather crops below, and the approximate days to maturity given for each crop, you can determine when to plant for the desired date of maturity. Here in the South, where “killing” frosts are later and less frequent, your growing season for your fall garden is longer.
*Onions and garlic are typically planted in early fall and harvested in late spring or early summer the following year.
For more help with planning and planting your fall garden visit www.msucares.com or contact your local Mississippi State Extension Service.