The summer growing season is only a few months long for most people. You may have heard that cool weather has crops that can be grown just as well, but is fall gardening something that you really need to consider?
The short answer: YES! There are a few reasons that you need to plant a fall garden and a few may surprise you.
Say Goodbye to Your End-of-Summer Blues
It’s hard to be depressed when you look out at your summer garden. Neat rows and beds full of dark greens, reds, yellow and orange hues are the sign that you’re in the middle of a gorgeous summer season. And who doesn’t love summer? Summer is the time for plenty of fun and relaxation. There’s a reason that most people take their annual vacations in the middle of summer.
Summer is such an enjoyable time that it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the end of summer can be a little depressing. Not everyone is excited for pumpkin spice-everything, especially when it means looking at a barren garden that lacks color or life.
The easiest way to fix your drab garden beds? Plant cool-weather crops in them! Leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, turnips, radishes and carrots all love growing in the cooler temperatures. Planting a few cool weather crops will help bring some life back into your garden and give the brown space plenty of pops of color.
To top it off, gardening has been proven numerous times to help keep depression away. So if you’re not looking forward to telling your summer garden goodbye, then the least you can do for yourself is to fill it up with cool-weather crops.
Don’t Waste the Space
You work incredibly hard to keep your garden bed up to par. When the summer crops are shot and you clean your garden bed up at the end of summer, the space turns into waiting real estate. If you don’t plant something back into it, seeds from nearby grass and weeds will do their best to get a foothold in your nutrient-rich garden soil.
Plus, if you’re growing plants in your garden in the summer, why wouldn’t you keep growing in cooler weather? The space where you grow summer crops is usually just as ideal for growing cool-loving crops. You don’t have to do much prep work to start growing cool weather crops in the same space, so why wouldn’t you?
Cool Weather Crops
You can grow just as many crops in cool, fall weather as you can in the middle of the summer. Put your garden space to good use by growing leafy greens, lettuce, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots, turnips and other crops.
Did you know that when you aren’t using your garden soil it’s actually becoming less healthy? Barren soil, like that in your garden bed when it’s empty, loses nutrients and becomes less healthy. The longer the soil sits empty, the more nutrients the soil loses.
Why is that?
When plants are actively growing in the soil, they work with microorganisms in the soil to produce nutrients that they can absorb. The roots of the plants provide a safe place for these microorganisms to live and in return, the microorganisms break down nutrients that the plant can use. Taking the growing plants out of the soil reduces the number of microorganisms that can help make nutrients available in the soil.
Also, the roots of growing plants help to hold the soil in place. Roots act like an anchor for both the plant and the soil around it. Garden beds that are planted out with crops are much less likely to erode and wash away.
A bare garden bed will quickly wash away with a heavy rain. The rain will remove the top layer of soil from your garden. The top layer of soil, called top soil, is where most of the nutrients in the soil are found. When the top soil washes away, so do most of your nutrients.
A common practice lately has been no-till gardens. A no-till garden is a garden that, you guessed it, you don’t till up routinely. Soil in a no-till garden can become hard and compact if you don’t take proper care of it. One of the ways that gardeners can prevent their no-till soil from becoming rock-hard is by planting crops that will break the soil up between crop cycles.
Root crops, like turnips, carrots, radishes and parsnips are perfect for breaking up the soil. Plant these crops in the fall to break up the soil between your summer gardens. Root crops grow down into the soil, making it loose and softer. A soft soil is much easier to grow summer crops in, especially if you are sowing seeds into it.
This is probably one of the best benefits of planting a fall garden. No one wants to deal with pests or disease in their vegetable garden. It shouldn’t be a surprise that insects are more abundant in the summer.
Pests that affect your garden plants are out and about in full force in the summer. You’ll spend a large amount of your gardening time keeping pests off of your summer garden. Thankfully, if you plant a fall garden, you won’t have to fight the pests the same way.
Many pests, like the tomato hornworm, beetles, slugs, snails and aphids, can’t handle cool weather. You won’t see them in your cool weather garden. Not only will you not see them in your fall vegetable garden, but you’ll be less likely to see them in your summer garden the following year if you go about fall gardening the right way.
When you pull up the plants from your summer garden, it’s a good idea to till and work the soil where your summer crops were planted. Many garden pests will lay their eggs into the soil below the plants that they prefer to live on. The eggs hatch and turn into larvae or grubs in the soil where they hide out for the winter, waiting on the crop to emerge the next summer. You can break up this life cycle with your fall garden.
Once the old crops have been removed, till the soil up. Leave the soil exposed to the sun for a couple of days. Any larvae or grubs in the soil get exposed to sunlight. When they are exposed to sunlight, they die. You can till and expose the soil a couple of times to try and kill more of the pests in the soil before you plant your fall garden out.
There are many reasons to plant a fall garden. You’ll be able to add some color to an otherwise brown and gray landscape, which can work wonders for your mood, especially if you’re dreading winter. Making use of your garden space is another reason to plant a fall garden. You enjoy eating fresh summer vegetables, so why wouldn’t you want to eat fresh lettuce, greens, carrots and other fall crops as well?
A well-planned fall garden will help to keep your garden bed healthy, which will help to ensure that next year’s summer garden is spectacular. Fall garden crops will help keep the nutrients in your soil and prevent the top soil from washing away in the rain. Root crops like carrots, turnips, radishes and parsnips will help to break up the soil and keep it loose. Don’t want to fight pests in your garden? Fall vegetable gardens have very few, if any, garden pests. Most pests can’t handle the cold, so you won’t have to fight off insects the same way.
What are you planting in your fall garden this year?
Today’s post about the benefits of fall gardening comes from Shelby DeVore, founder of Farminence [https://farminence.com]. Shelby is a former agriculture teacher and a multi-generational home gardener. She currently lives on a small farm with her husband and three children where they raise way too many animals and grow a large vegetable garden each year.