Planting a Fall Vegetable Garden
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[August 23, 2019]
Planting a vegetable garden doesn't just have to occur in the
spring. Many of the vegetables that we grow in the spring can be
also planted in late summer or early fall.
By the time summer rolls around many of our cool season plants that
were planted in the spring are past their prime. They become tough
and bitter and will often bolt (flower). By planting these cool
season crops again you can extend your gardening season and have
fresh produce throughout the fall.
There are several other advantages to planting a fall vegetable
garden. There are often fewer pest and weed problems in the fall
compared to the spring. Many vegetables have better quality when
they are grown in the fall. Additionally, some vegetables will also
develop better flavor when grown in the fall, particularly after
they have gone through a frost. Finally, fall gardens often require
less time and labor because the soil has already been worked in the
Vegetables that are typically grown in a fall vegetable garden fall
into the semi-hardy and hardy categories. Semi-hardy plants such as
beets, carrots, cauliflower, and lettuce can tolerate light frosts
(32°F). Hardy plants such as broccoli, cabbage, radishes, and
spinach can tolerate hard frosts (28°F).
To determine when you should plant your vegetables you need to
determine when your first frost usually occurs.
https:// www.isws.illinois.edu/statecli/Frost/ frost.htm
For central Illinois, it is generally mid-October. Start with that
date and count backwards for the number of days it takes the crop to
mature. It's also a good idea to add a week or two for the fall
factor because temperatures are getting cooler so development slows
compared to spring when temperatures get warmer.
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Most of the vegetables you grow in the fall vegetable garden can be directly
seeded in the garden. Some like broccoli and cauliflower are best done as
transplants. Unfortunately, transplants are not easy to find in the summer for
these plants, so to make your own start the seed indoors 6 to 8 weeks before you
wish to put them in the garden (it's a little too late this year, but as they
say there's always next year…).
Planting your fall garden really isn't much different than starting your garden
in the spring. Remove any crop residues from previous crops and pull any weeds
that may be present. Soil can also be tilled and one to one and a half pounds of
an all-purpose fertilizer (per 100 sq ft) or composted organic matter can be
incorporated. When planting seeds, follow the directions on the seed packets.
Make sure to keep the soil moist until the seeds have germinated. Because the
seeds are being planted at the end of summer, the soil moisture will need to be
monitored closely. It is also helpful to provide some shade to seedlings in the
afternoon while the temperatures are still high and the plants have yet to
become well established. Once your plants have become established the
maintenance is just like any other garden, make sure to control weeds and pests
if necessary and water when needed. Finally, sit back and enjoy the fruits (or
vegetables) of your labor.
Good Growing Tip of the Week: If you're planting seeds outdoors a light covering
of mulch or even a board can be placed over them to help retain moisture in the
soil. If using a board make sure check under it frequently for sprouting seed
and remove it once the seeds germinate. Checking the seed packet will give you
an idea of how many days it will take for the seeds to germinate.
[Ken Johnson, Horticulture Educator,
University of Illinois Extension]