There's nothing like the fresh fall air to get my blood pumping. I can just taste seasonally fresh apple crisp, squash soup and pumpkin pie, made in part from produce grown in my garden. In the midst of all the feasting, though, I need to nurture my outdoor plant beds and give them a bit of attention as the summer growing season wraps up and fall planting begins. With a little bit of effort, my outdoor beds will be ready in no time for broccoli, cabbage, onions and other delectable produce.
Clean Up Summer Debris
Before I can plant any delicious fall veggies, I have to clean up the beds from my summer garden. I start with everything that's dead. Weeds are tossed in the garbage, and I remove and compost any dead plants, leaves and twigs.
Now, I'm ready to tackle living plants. I cut off any ornamental grasses and perennials like sedum because they're done flowering and need to rest before growing again in the spring. I also harvest any heirloom vegetable seeds and dig up bulbs because they stay fertile until next spring when they're stored in a cool, dry location.
Dress Up the Fall Beds
Cleared beds are now ready to welcome new plants. When possible, I always plant fall produce in beds that don't have existing plants. I also rotate crops so that the broccoli doesn't grow in the same spot each year. That way, the new plants receive as many nutrients as possible during the short growing season.
I also inspect the soil before I plant for the fall. If it's compacted from the summer crop, I lightly rake it and add enough new soil or compost to ensure the new plants thrive. Aerating helps fall plants grow too, and I simply stick the pitchfork into the soil at regular intervals as deep as possible to promote air movement and healthy beds.
Choose the Right Plants
Planting is the part of fall gardening that's most exciting for me. The plants I choose to grow, however, may be different than your choices and are based on where you live. Check with your local Cooperative Extension agent to determine the best fall plants for your climate and growing season.
Additionally, consider staggering the plantings to extend the season. By planting new vegetables every two weeks, you prolong the harvest and enjoy fresh harvest produce throughout the fall instead of having to eat or preserve it all at one time.
Prolong the Growing Season
Your fall plants can't wait to grow in their new beds, but your work isn't done yet. Add a layer of mulch on top of the soil to protect your veggies and promote moisture. You may also build a portable cold frame or use row covers as you protect your plants and prolong the growing season.
Care for the Tools
Before packing up your gardening tools for another season, clean them up. They last longer when they're clean, and you save time and money when you sort and organize the tool shed in the fall.
First, brush dirt and debris off each tool. Spray the metal parts with a protective product designed to prevent rust or corrosion.
Drain your garden hoses, coil them and store them on a wall hook. You'll also want to drain the gas tanks of gas-powered trimmers and add a fuel stabilizer if directed in the instruction manual.
Now that your fall plants are in the ground, sit back and watch them grow. You'll still need to water and weed regularly, but prepare to taste the delicious produce that will be ready to eat in no time.