Now is the time to plant your vegetables for your fall garden. I started some several weeks earlier, and already have the seedlings showing. It’s not too late to plant, but with the hot and dry conditions of late August/early September, you’ll have to take more care of your plants and be wary of garden pests.
Remove the weeds and old non-producing plants from your existing garden. Put old plants in the compost pile. Mix in any mulch and/or fertilizer and mix or till the soil to make it easier for the roots of the new plants to grow.
Vegetables for Fall Gardens
In zone 7b, some of the vegetables that you can plant for a fall garden include:
- bush snap beans (start mid-August for best results)
- brussel sprouts
- Chinese cabbage
- lettuce (my favorite is the mesculin mix!)
- peppers (start mid-August for best results)
- squash (start mid-August for best results)
- tomatoes (start mid-August for best results)
Starting plants from seed is a bit more challenging at this time of year due to the high heat, so if you can find seedlings at your local garden supply store, that is the way to go. If you start from seeds, you’ll need to make sure you keep them well watered. Maybe a soaker system is the way to go for this planting.
This goes for seedlings too though – make sure they don’t get dry. If you transplant seedlings (from thinning) or start seeds in containers and then transplant into the garden, you’ll need to keep them watered and slowly adjust them to the sunlight by providing some shading for a week. A shade net can help with that. Once the seedlings are established you can remove the shade and cut back on the watering.
Here’s a good guide on how to plant some of these fall vegetables: http://www.pallensmith.com/index.php?id=16611
Protecting from Pests
Just like your summer and spring garden, fall gardens are susceptible to pests. Be aware of what pests you already have and avoid replanting the same plants in those areas or address the problem.
For me, it’s deer which have found the garden in the last month that are the biggest pest. They already ate through my second planting of beans. Knowing this, I created some deer exclosures for my raised beds and put up netting around other beds. In the first two weeks since I planted, the exclosures have worked (so far) to keep the deer out. Unfortunately I can not protect all of my gardens.
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the tobacco hornworm, a large green caterpillar that feeds on tomato plants.
Protecting from Freezing
Keep an eye on the weather. When the temperatures start to dip, you can extend the growing life of your vegetables by covered by plastic (use sticks or something to raise it above the plant a bit, so as not to crush the plant) or garden fabric (row covers). If you have tomato plants growing in the fall, you can pick green tomatoes to ripen indoors. Keep them in brown paper bags to speed the process up.
To extend the life of your fall vegetables, check out this Frost Cover with Hoops for easy-to-install frost protection (down to 24 degrees!) or if you’re just looking for cloth, check out this GardenQuilt Cover (12×20) or for longer rows GardenQuilt Cover 6′ X 50′. Generally I just use sheets and plastic that are laying around the house. Sheets are only effective for very light frosts though and plastic has to be removed during the day or the plants will get burned in the sun. If you do get the quilt cover, you’ll need some sod staples to tack it to the ground.
Don’t Forget the Herbs
Herbs can grow well into the fall as well. Oregano, cilantro, parsley, garlic, thyme, sage and mint can grow in fall. Unfortunately, basil has a limited tolerance for cooler temps and won’t make it too long. So dry some basil or freeze it for future use. You could also plant some basil in a portable pot and bring it in during cold snaps. It doesn’t do too well, but you’ll still be able to get some fresh leaves from it for a while.
When winter comes, you can bring in some of your herbs to enjoy during the cold season and have them ready to plant again in the spring.