The summer gardens are just getting in full swing. Though gardening is all about timing and summer is when I make sure my fall plans are set. I didn’t have my own garden last year. I have a yard I can use this year and I plan to use it.
If you have your own garden, then right now is when you want to plan your fall garden. You need to figure out what plants you want and when you need to plant and get those seeds ordered in if need be. Just like a garden for any other season planting is all about timing. Your success and failure depend on your timing.
The primary thing is WHEN to plan. The spring and summer planting dates are pretty easy, fall is a less common planting window for people so you may not be as familiar. It isn’t difficult to figure out.
First Frost Date
Spring planting is when you want to get plants out on your LAST frost day. Fall planting is the opposite where you are trying to plan on your FIRST frost date. The easiest way to figure out your first frost date is to find a calculator online and put in your location information like street name or zip code.
I generally use the calculator on Dave’s Garden.
The calculator is easy and gives the average dates for frost risk and tells dates of certain frost. You can use this information to estimate your growing season.
In most of the US the first frost is sometime in September and October. So the mid or end of August is when you want to do your fall planting. Though right now would also be acceptable.
Tools and Tips for Planning Your Fall Garden
The key difference of fall and winter gardening is you sun hours per day change. A limiting factor to winter plant growth is how they handle the shorter days and most plants are happiest with at least 10 hours of daylight.
The US Naval Observatory has a tool that should give you an accurate daylight table for your location. It is a handy tool as you want your plants to reach maturity before the days drop under those 10-hour daylight minimums.
Plan Your Garden
Make your Plant List
The first thing to figure out is what your family eats and what you want to plant. I always enjoyed growing kale during the cold seasons, but I was the only one eating it. It is best to prioritize things your family will eat.
Fall plants include:
- Other assorted brassicas
Create a Guide
You will want to plan your garden and it helps to get a record will all the varieties you want to grow. You want to include variety, special instructions, days to maturity, when to plant, and any notes about succession planting.
Every packet of seeds should come with instructions about how long it takes the plant to mature. When a plant is mature you can harvest it and this date is important because you want to harvest at the right time.
Seed packets usually tell you when you should start your seeds. Most of them tell you to plant indoors 2-6 weeks before going outside. Many fall varieties are frost tolerant or can even be suitable for winter growing. I was growing a certain variety of kale all year.
You want to take notes about which of your plants will be frost tolerant or not. Row covers are a great way to extend the season if you need more wiggle room.
Some veggies give you a couple of different planting windows. You can do multiple crops of lettuce or carrots for example. You would sow the seeds every two weeks and then harvest them when mature.
This is where you want to keep a calendar and gardening journal to keep track of your planting notes.
Either this fall or next fall, take a crack at it. With a bit of planning, you can have a lovely fall garden. It is hard at first, but after a few seasons, you have your crop lists and experience of what worked for you. Just keep track of your first frost, keep on top of your daylight hours, and build a table for when to plant seeds and when to transplant out into a garden bed.