The notion that gardening ends at fall’s onset is a common misconception often held by new gardeners. A chill in the air doesn’t signal the end of homegrown veggies and garden-to-table eating. The onset of autumn does, however, mean it’s time to plant your cool-season crops and prepare for a bountiful harvest.
SALAD GREENS FOR FALL
Fall is an ideal time to get in your greens. If it’s a leafy green, chances are it’ll grow in the fall. Plant spinach, arugula, lettuce, cabbage, kale and chard for a fall filled with fresh salads. These plants can also work in containers.
COOL SEASON HERBS
Dill and parsley also thrive in cooler temperatures. These herbs can take the frost, are easy to grow and work as a wonderful addition to many dishes.
Chives, radishes, carrots and onions also flourish in fall. Their flavors add a lot of punchiness to dishes. Harvest summer planted butternut squash and pumpkins to create your own garden-to-table holiday food.
EXTEND THE GROWING SEASON
Protecting plants against an early frost is another important autumn ritual. When it gets really cold in late fall, you can always extend the season with cold frames and frost blankets.
Basically, cold frames take energy from the sun and warm the soil and air temperature to create a mini-greenhouse. It can get pretty hot under cold frames, especially during midday in early fall, so remember to remove or prop open the top of your cold frame during the day.
Draping the garden with old sheets, plastic and even newspaper for a little protection is a common defense against frost. But there are products available that make sheltering plants much easier.
Garden blankets, made of heavy fabric, have been designed to keep vulnerable plants snug. Unlike plastic sheeting, garden blankets can stay on plants without harming them. The lightweight material allows air, water and sunlight through. These blankets come in various weights and the heavier ones can provide frost protection down to 24 degrees F.
Garden blankets are advantageous not only for frost protection, but they also offer young plants a strong start by protecting them from pests such as insects, rabbits and birds. By covering your plants with garden blankets in the fall, you can help extend the gardening season, and because they are durable, with a little care, you can use them year after year.
Images courtesy of P. Allen Smith