Planning Your Fall Garden
If you already garden in the spring and summer, it's easy to transition in to fall gardening. But some of the questions you need to ask before you delve into fall gardening are:
• What growing zone do I live in? The easiest way to determine your growing zone is to look it up on a hardiness zone map. You can visit this link to find your zone: http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html
• How do I decide what to plant? Visit online nurseries or go to your nearest magazine rack and look for vegetables you'd like to plant in your garden. Take a look for products that will thrive in your hardiness zone and choose those varieties. Visit your local home improvement store, hardware store, department store, and nursery—anywhere live plants are sold. Choose the species of plants that will grow in your hardiness zone, and plant them according to the instructions that accompany the plants. Consider the first frost date of the year when deciding upon what to plant. When planning a fall garden, remember that most plants need to be at least 80% mature when cold weather sets in, for them to endure the cold. Other variables to consider are sun exposure, wind, altitude, and wind chill factors.
• What plants will thrive in cold weather? Some hardy varieties of vegetables that can grow into early winter are kale, cabbage, spinach, cauliflower, lettuce, turnips, and broccoli. It is known among fall gardeners that kale and collards taste better after having had frost. Some plants, even after having reached maturity before frost sets in, will grow better in fall if you provide them cover at night. Plants such as lettuce and spinach, because their leaves tend to be frail, will do better if they are covered at night.
One of the best aspects of fall gardening is that your plants can serve as fodder and mulch for your next spring and summer garden. When the temperatures get so cold that your plants succumb to the elements, simply leave the remains of your garden standing. Just till their remains into your soil next spring, providing needed nutrients and cellular material into your garden plot.
Another great way to plan a fall garden is to take pencil and paper and sketch your garden plot, referencing the successes and failures of any previous fall gardens. Decide which hardy vegetables to plant with other less hardy vegetables, so that they may help provide warmth and shelter from cold temperatures. Keep track of frost dates from previous fall gardens and learn from your mistakes the year before.