Although many people will avoid growing anything in the gardens, the fall weather is still adequate to support plant life. With fall receiving less and less daylight as the season progresses, you need to allow a little more time for these plants to mature. In most places, plants grown during fall will be ready for harvesting between September and October. Areas that receive mild climates (such as the Pacific Northwest) can support vegetable growth through winter. You will, however, have to take proper care of the garden to take it through the winter season. Fortunately though, only a handful of rules need to be followed for a successful fall harvest. These include:
1. Prepare Early
The first step to a successful and bumper winter harvest is by preparing your garden on time. This means you have to get the garden ready for planting as early as August. Planting early gives the crops enough time to size up and take advantage of the sunshine when the conditions are right. Fast-growing vegetables, including radishes and lettuce can be planted late into September. These only need a little sun to mature. Carrots, broccoli, and eggplant, among others, however, take longer to grow and mature, one of the reasons they should be planted days before fall sets in. These plants need to grow to maturity before low light and frost start settling in. A lot of these plants can also be planted again in spring – there is quite an overlap of plants that can be grown in fall and spring – take these hydrangeas for instance.
2. Know What the Crop’s Lifespan Is
Anticipate how long the crops will take to mature when preparing the garden. Every plant has a relative lifespan (days to maturity), which you need to take advantage of to be able to harvest before the harsh weather sets in. The relative days to maturity will always be listed on the plant tag or seed package. The general rule of thumb here is to give the plants enough time to grow to maturity before the first frost.
3. Harvest Spring and Summer Crops as Soon as They Are Ready
Fall gardening is almost always a race against time. That said, you’ll have to harvest early-season crops as soon as they have matured, and have them removed from the garden on time. Clearing the garden early gives you enough time to prepare it for fall crops. This is commonly the practice in small and space-limited gardens. Some of the plants that can/should be harvested midsummer include:
Any worn-out spring salad crops should also be removed as well.
Planning the summer harvest well should make it easier for you to know which plants need to be harvested, and which to add to the garden. Make an inventory of all crops that need to be harvested before the harvesting season too. You can then work out how much available space there is for new plants to be introduced to the garden.
4. Crops Last Longer in Fall
The cooler temperatures and low light tend to slow down the rate at which plants are supposed to grow. This means plants that would otherwise take 2 months to grow will take longer to mature. In addition to this, the low temperatures help preserve the crops making them remain fresh for even longer. Kale, cabbages, broccoli, etc. can stay in the garden even after their maturity and never go bad. The colder temperature has a similar effect on lettuce, cilantro, and spinach, among other fast-growing crops. With this in mind, you should be able to harvest fresh vegetables from the garden through the winter season. Some of these will even last into spring.
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