Fall Vegetable Garden
It’s Time to Start Fall Vegetable Gardening
By Jodi Torpey
If you’ve never grown a fall garden, now’s the time to start. A fall garden is a great way to extend your gardening season.
Cool-season vegetables, like peas, spinach and lettuce, typically take around 60 days from planting to harvest. Planting in July means enjoying a season of these delicious vegetables and greens in September.
If you like carrots, beets, turnips, kale and Swiss chard, mid-summer is also the time to start sowing these seeds in the garden. To get started, select the vegetables you and your family like best. You can start from seeds or look for transplants of fall crops that are cold-hardy and fast-maturing.
One of the keys to fall planting is to know the average first fall frost date for your area. For example, the average first frost date for Denver is the second week in October, although in some years it can happen in September. CSU Extension has a list of dates to help gardeners throughout Colorado. (link to website: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/gardennotes/740.html )
The other key to fall planting is knowing the days to maturity of each vegetable you’re planting. Check the back of seed packets for the number of days to harvest or the plant tag that comes with your transplants.
Use these two pieces of information to time your fall vegetable planting. Count back from the frost date and use the number of days to maturity for each vegetable.
Clear the planting area of weeds and any spring or early summer crops that are past their prime. Keep in mind that some crops, like beans, can be harvested until the first killing frost.
Till the soil to a depth of 6-8 inches and plant the seeds according to the instructions on the seed packet.
If the weather is hot when it’s time to plant, here are some tricks to help seeds get a good start:
- Reduce the soil temperature by watering the garden just before planting.
- Plant the seeds just a bit deeper than you would for spring planting. Planting deeper helps seeds stay cool and moist.
- Shade the soil with a light mulch, like straw, to help regulate the soil temperature.
- Plant seeds behind taller plants that can offer shade.
Water as needed to keep the seeds moist. If you seeds aren’t sprouting, keep planting.
If your summer garden was well fertilized, the fall garden may do well without adding additional fertilizer. However, fall vegetables may benefit from side dressing with a balanced fertilizer to give them a good start.
Many cool-season vegetables will grow through the fall season, and some vegetables will grow into winter. Even if there’s an early frost, root vegetables like beets, carrots and parsnips can survive frosty temperatures that brings out their flavor and sweetness. Other vegetables, like kale, can even stand a freeze.