Fall is here in northern hemisphere… well at least for most of it. Living in Arizona it got close to 108 degrees today. However for the rest of you, the air is getting crisp and the summer garden is probably exploding in production, if it hasn’t already and begun to die off. Many people at this time just harvest and let the beds rest through the winter to start again in the spring. What many don’t know is that fall gardening is a great way to get some serious production in up until winter (and even through it if you have a greenhouse).
Especially in the south, there is ample time to get some good production in before the frosts take over. If you grow a fall garden you won’t have to wait till spring to have some fresh, home-grown produce.
With that being said, how do you start?
Hopefully you have been working on your compost pile for a few months now and have some stable organic matter (that’s the dark brown to black stuff that happens when compost is nearing the end of it’s production cycle) with maybe a few leaves and twigs still breaking down. You can sift this stuff out with some 5 gallon buckets and diamond wire, or you can just mix it in if it isn’t heating up too much. Get either a compost thermometer or a meat thermometer and test the center of the pile first. If it’s not above the ambient temperature it’s done “cooking.”
Next, decide where you want to plant.
If you’re relatively new at this you might want to buy or build some raised bed gardens. You can also just plant directly into the ground. I would recommend adding some compost if you have it to the area where you’re going to plant. This will help stabilize and fertilize the soil. I have planted directly into compost before, and some get good results from it, but in my case I have found it’s better to do about a 50-40-10 ratio with 50% compost, 40% yard soil (I have highly clay soil in my area) and 10% sand. This mixture gives a good balance between water retention and drainage as well as mineral content.
What grows well in the fall?
Several plants grow well in the fall and into the early winter. Some plants that do well in fall are
- Snow Peas
A few plants that can sometimes survive into early winter with slight frost are
This year I bought my seeds from Terrior Seeds, since they sell heirloom varieties and are in my state.
How to fertilize
I don’t use a lot of fertilizer as I try to grow as close to permaculture as I can, however I have in the past used a mixture of spirulina and kelp powder mixed in water (very lightly, perhaps a tablespoon of 50/50 mix to a watering can as a soil amendment) which made my yellow squash grow great.
This year I will be trying miracle grow’s liquid ORGANIC fertilizer which is made from fermented beet juice. I don’t use their chemical fertilizers, but this organic version was highly recommended to me.
Hopefully this post has been helpful and perhaps motivational for you to get started with your own garden. If you’re just starting out, pick 1 or a few vegetables from this list that you like to eat and plant a in a raised bed or small in ground bed. Don’t get overwhelmed, just do whatever you think you can manage. You can always grow more next year and you will have more experience.