Fall is my favorite time of year! It has fantastic holidays (Halloween, El Dia de Los Muertos, Thanksgiving), good food (pumpkin pie) and beautiful colors. Also, it’s time to start my fall garden! This year I plan to have my own personal salad bar complete with all the needed fixin’s. Fall doesn’t officially start this year until September 22nd, but late summer is a great time to start a fall garden. At least it is in USDA zone 9.
How about you? I’d love to hear from my fellow garden friends. What’s fall like where you live? Please post some details and tell us your zone and state. I’m curious to learn about different planting times and strategies, as well as how the season varies in other places. It’s amazing to think that by moving to another zone I would need to relearn much of my gardening knowledge! No matter where you live, fall is a great time to plant cool season annuals. The term “annual” can confuse gardeners, because it implies annuals live for at least one year. However, most annual plants generally live from three months to nine months, depending on your climate.
Fall is also the perfect time to add flowers like nasturtiums, sweet peas, pansies, sweet William (edible petals), stock, snapdragons, and calendula (edible petals) to your garden. These can be planted from seed or transplant. You can also find Chrysanthemums from transplants, and cyclamen from transplant or a bulb.
Start your own salad bar with roots like beets, carrots, turnips, parsnips and rutabaga. Add leafy veggies like lettuce, arugula, chard, spinach, cabbage, kale, mustard greens, and collard greens (did I miss anybody??) Don’t forget to add “flowery” vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower too. Snow peas, snap peas and kohlrabi taste great in salads too!
Plant root crops from seed, being careful not to bury the tiny seeds too deeply. I sow seeds along the row and then sprinkle a small handful of soil over the top, then water gently. Note: carrots need 14-21 days to germinate, and beets need 7-14 days. During this long period of time keep soil moist using a soaker hose or a drip system. Thin beets and carrots about three weeks later to three inches apart.
Leafy greens can be planted from seed or transplant. Sow thickly and then thin to five inches apart three weeks later. You can use the thinned greens to make a baby salad, just don’t forget to add some beet greens from thinning your beets! (yum) Harvest leafy greens anytime by cutting or pinching off the outer leaves of the plant.
Crops like Brussels sprouts and cabbage need to be planted from seed in mid to late summer,otherwise they won’t have enough time to develop. Otherwise, purchase the six week old transplants from a local nursery or garden center. Oh, and avoid purchasing root vegetables sold in containers, its not economical (plus the roots don’t like to be contained).
You can also plant fall annual herbs like parsley and cilantro now. Did you know that the leafy part of cilantro is the herb, while the seeds are known as the spice coriander? To harvest either herb, cut leaves as needed. For coriander, allow the plant to go to seed, then pick stems of the dried plant, carefully place them in a paper a bag and wait for two weeks. The seeds will fall to the bottom.
If you live in a mild climate and time your planting correctly, some crops may be ready by late fall or early winter. You can harvest carrots, beets, anything leafy, baby bok choy, radishes, early (50 day) varieties of broccoli as well as parsley and cilantro. In order to ensure a fall harvest, you’ll need to know when the average last frost date is in your area. To find it for your area, click here. Next, count backwards from that date using the days-to-maturity number on your seed packet. Then add seven to fourteen days to account for cool weather.
Lastly, fall is a great time to plant strawberries.
Happy fall gardening-I hope this season brings you a bountiful harvest! Please send me photos of your fabulous garden, or post them to my facebook.