Contributed by Matthew of yearroundharvest.com. Thanks, Matthew!
A quick note for 2012 gardeners: If you're in a northern zone, it may be a little late to start fall plants from seed this year, but you’re just in time to get many varieties of veggie seedlings (beets! radishes! chard! lettuce! celeriac!) into the ground for an autumn yield. And don't forget: Winter gardening is on the horizon!
Depending on your location, it may be time to start thinking about planting for fall. I have been growing a fall garden for the last six years and I’ve really come to enjoy gardening in the autumn, rather than in the heat of summer. A fall garden is a great way to extend your harvesting season, and it’s also a great way to grow more vegetables in less space. With a little planning, you can have a great fall harvest.
One of the biggest factors in planting a fall garden is timing. If you are able to get your spring crops planted early enough so that they have finished producing by midsummer, you can pull the plants and create more space for fall varieties.
You also have to consider when your first frost date is. In our zone, 6b [Matt lives in central Pennsylvania; use this this map to determine your own zone], it’s usually around October 15. For frost sensitive crops, it's a good idea to count back from your frost date to determine your planting date, adding in a few weeks for harvesting. Remember that you want your harvest completed by the first frost for these types of crops. Don't be afraid to experiment a little with planting dates and crop varieties. You’ll be amazed what you learn.
Another important factor in planting a fall garden is the weather. Depending on the heat and rain, you may need to adjust your planting schedule accordingly. Some seeds will not germinate if the soil temperature is too warm.
Here’s a list of things we will be planting for our fall garden, with our approximate planting dates:
Green Onions: 7/30
Swiss Chard: 8/20
There are a lot more crops you can plant for a fall garden than those we have listed above. We are also planning on planting more crops in the early fall for a winter harvest—more on that soon! Happy growing!
• First, find your area’s first fall frost date using this chart from the Farmer’s Almanac.
• Then use that date to figure out when to plant your fall, or “second-season,” crops:
• Heirloom Seeds offers another reliable calendar for determining your fall planting dates (you’ll just need your zone’s first fall frost date, found using the first bullet above).
• And Johnny’s Seeds shares a tool with fall-planting dates based on the spring frost earlier in the year. First, find your zone's spring frost date then use it to determine fall planting dates for plants including artichoke, basil, celery, celeriac, cucumber, eggplant, okra.
Visit yearroundharvest.com for more from Matt on gardening, canning, and planning ahead. Got a comment? A tip on fall planting? Post it below and keep the conversation rolling. For more tools and resources on planning your garden from scratch, revisit the Garden Planning 101. And for more things to plant, grow, cook, preserve, make,
craft, and tend, browse the HOMEGROWN 101 archive of DIY projects.