By Joan Casanova, Bonnie Plants, Inc.
Photographs courtesy of Bonnie Plants, Inc.
Scrumptious, healthy veggies and herbs, hefty harvests and a break on your grocery bill – many appealing advantages draw people to growing their own. Whether you've never gardened before or you're a green-thumbed garden guru, you'll soon figure out that fall's a great time to get growing your own produce. Cooler temperatures and milder sun can spell success for any gardener who takes up the trowel as autumn approaches.
Favorable fall conditions mean growing cool weather crops is comparatively easy, with less watering and care needed for a successful garden. Cool crops will start out strong, growing quickly and then slow their growth as days become shorter and cooler. You'll also need to work less to protect your garden from pests, as both insects and animal populations will taper off in fall. And since weeds will germinate less frequently and grow slower, weeding won't be a time-consuming task. Finally, more rain and less sun and heat mean you'll need to water less.
If you're ready for gardening success, now is the time to grab that hoe, break some ground and get growing. Tips to get you started:
Pick Your Plants
Start with transplants, rather than seed. Transplants are six weeks older and give you a jump-start. You'll be able to harvest sooner than if you start from seed and skip the volatile, sometimes unsuccessful, seed-starting process. A shorter, gentler growing season means you need to get started right away. Many local garden retailers will have a good selection of transplants from producers like Bonnie Plants that will grow well in your garden.
Artwork Stir-Fry Broccoli – Many greens love the fall, and broccoli is no exception. Grow your own tender "baby broccoli!" Instead of focusing energy on producing one large broccoli head, Artwork Broccoli yields bite-size heads and long, edible stems – which are perfect for stir-fries and sautéing. Broccoli is high in fiber and calcium.
Lacinato Kale –A cold-hardy vegetable, kale leaves sweeten after frost. Dark blue-green leaves often have a crinkled texture, which inspired this variety to be referenced as "dinosaur kale." Kale is a superfood, and lacinato leaves extend excellent health benefits, like lowering cholesterol, fighting cancer, and decreasing inflammation.
Bonnie Hybrid Cabbage – The quintessential fall vegetable, Bonnie's hybrid cabbage grows large, round blue-green heads. From salads to stews, cabbage adds a flurry of flavor and nutrients such as beta-carotene, vitamins C and K, and plenty of fiber.
Romaine Lettuce– Crisp and sweet, red or green romaine packs a big punch with more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients than other popular types of lettuce. Rich in fiber, vitamin C, and beta-carotene, romaine is especially good for heart health.
Georgia Collards – Prized for their sweet, cabbage-like flavor, pretty and sizable blue-green leaves are ruffled. Leaves taste best when young and are actually sweeter when nipped by frost! Rich in vitamins and minerals.
Once you know what you'll be planting, it's time to get the ground ready. Remove any garden debris from the past season's garden, bag, tie and discard. Be sure to remove any weeds before they go to seed.
Then it's time to:
Size up your soil: Loosen compacted soil, fluffing it up with a garden fork. Soil test and amend if necessary. Adding a 2-inch layer of bagged compost is always good practice. You can also spread a balanced fertilizer, according to label instructions, for added nutrients.
Water wisely: Plants will need an inch of moisture per week, through either rain or supplemental watering. You might want to consider raised bed planting; beds are easy to build or buy and allow you to start out with good quality, raised bed soil. Plus, you'll bend less come harvest time!
Let the sunshine in: Most vegetables need full sun – six to eight hours per day is optimal. Finally, don't fear frost. When frost threatens, cover plants with a floating row cover, cold frame or a cloche. Or you can grow fall veggies in containers and move pots to a protected location on frosty nights.
Whether you're working in the backyard, a raised bed or in containers on a deck, you'll see how easy and successful fall planting can be. Start now to ensure you enjoy a healthy, plentiful and fulfilling fall harvest. For more tips on fall gardening visit www.bonnieplants.com.
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