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Fall gardening

A New Gardener Asks: “- what to do — after it all stops producing? Is there any thing I could plant which may grow from now till the first frost?”

Susan, a reader in New York, started her first garden this year. She told some of what she had learned in the comment section at the end of this post.

In closing she asks “—what to do (if anything) after it all stops producing? Is there any thing I could plant which may grow from now till the first frost?

When summer crops stop producing, fall crops can fill the gap if they’re started in time. With a little know-how and/or some protection you can have many greens all winter, although growth will be slower because of cold temperatures and less daylight hours.

Ideally the time to start fall crops in areas with cold winters is August. High temperatures can make that improbable. It usually does for me; thus, I start various greens in September.

First Recommendation – Start Mache

If I were Susan I’d direct sow mache as soon as possible. (It starts better sown in the garden than it does in containers; at least for me.)

It’s one of the most delicious greens you’ll ever taste and is high in nutrients. No protection from ice and snow is needed, although it’ll grow faster if it has some. (A row cover fabric over it would be easy.)

For more details on how to start and grow mache the following posts will be helpful:

Garlic – One of the Most Beneficial Foods You Can Grow

Still plenty of time to order and plant garlic in October or even November.

The post, When to Plant and Why, will help you decide the right planting date.

Mizuna

Mizuna is a beautiful green with excellent cold tolerance and would be perfect for the fall/winter garden. It’s stronger tasting than lettuce but without the bitterness of arugula.

In freezing weather it’ll need a bit of protection.

This post gives you more information.

Other Possibles

Chard, Russian Kale, and spinach are great choices for the fall/winter garden,.

It might be a bit late to start Hakurei turnips, but I’d try starting a few seeds anyway and save the rest for spring planting. They’re a gourmet treat. The only turnips I’d even consider eating.

For pictures and more help with some of the crops mentioned above review this post.

Winter Density Lettuce

Susan might give Winter Density lettuce a try, but how much it grows before the first frost will depend on temperatures in her area.

Lettuces take light frosts easily. About 28ºF is the kill zone if you don’t provide protection.

What To Do With Beds Not Being Used For Food Crops

Another thing that would help nourish the soil on beds not being used for food is planting a cover crop.

Oats – An Easy Cover Crop for Winter

Oats would be good cover to plant since they winter kill. By the time spring arrives they’ll either be decayed or can easily be pulled and left on top to further decay.

They should be planted (direct sown) at least 6 to 10 weeks prior to the first frost.

On beds that are empty, the residues from summer crops that were healthy and not pest infested can be laid on top and covered with leaves and/or straw.

Soil life will break it down and pull it into the soil over time.

Nothing else needs to be done in those beds.  When spring comes, just pull back what’s left of the mulch and plant.

Final Thoughts

Most new gardeners don’t even think about continuing their garden through fall.  But Susan did.

Fall is one of the best and most enjoyable times to garden.  If you didn’t know and missed out this year, make a note for next year and take full advantage of this great season to grow.

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All content including pictures is copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com.  All Rights Reserved.

15 Comments

  • Theresa,
    I have very limited garden space in my current location. I’m wondering if mache can be planted over onion and garlic beds. The growing space and seasons are complimentary. Thanks!

  • Thank you Theresa for the wealth of information. I never even heard of Mache.
    Or the Hakurei turnips. I am not a big turnip eater but might plant them for my sister who loves them.
    I will have a look of the garden websites to see if I can get them. I don’t think my local nursery would have anything that exotic.
    Will let you know how it goes.

  • Thank you Theresa for these good plant recommendations. We also like to grow broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, beets and fava beans during the winter. Although we live in Southern California, our weather dips down into the 20s & 30s in the winter. All the vegys I mentioned do fine even in these cold temperatures. I like the idea of trying some new plants that you mentioned above.

  • Rosanna, mache can be seeded over almost any veggie bed. Then if you allow it to go to seed in the late spring/summer it will reseed and you’ll have an even better chance of having ample for winter use. It grows slowly during the winter so it’s best to sow large areas with seeds to produce what you need for winter.

    From your wording I got the idea that you plant onion and garlic in the same beds each year. If I’m correct on that I hope you will give thought to rotating using at least a 3 year cycle for onions and garlic. They’re top of the list for needing rotation; more so than any veggie I’ve grown.

    Susan,
    You’ll love Mache. Be sure to read all the mentioned posts. Direct sow into your beds, It will germinate in the cool and moist soil. The month of germination will depend on the weather. So it could be Sept., Oct, or November. Sow a lot of seed.

    As my various posts explain there are different varieties. Verte de Cambrai variety will probably be the most successful overall. That’s the one I’d do first.

    The round leaved one — often called Vit — is great but doesn’t come up in the same abundance as the Verte De Cabrai.
    I have it in my garden but it only shows up here and there.

    Any Dutch leaf variety has a large leaf and is easier to pick; but again it’s not as prolific as Verte De Cambrai. (Fedco Seeds has it. And Pinetree Garden Seeds has it. It’s call Macholong Mache at Pinetree but it looks the same as Verte De Cambrai to me.)

    Depending on conditions it might take some time to get it started but it’s well worth the time and effort when you’re eating it in the dead of winter.

    Kitazawa Seed Co has the Hakurei turnips. (They’re hybrids but really delicious. I don’t usually grow hybrids because they’re not as nutritious, but these are the only turnips I enjoy.)

    Gina, thanks so much for your additional recommendations. The fall is such a great time for the broccoli, cauliflower and collards because pests are not usually a problem as in the hot weather. And of course beets. (Mine are up about 1/2 inch.)

    Theresa

  • Always good to hear from you. I have the black spot turning into a bullseye again this year on all tomatoes. It will turn into a rot if left. It happens no matter where I plant them. Any thoughts?

    Thanks

    Ray

  • Good Morning Theresa,
    I went to one of the websites you mentioned and ordered Mache, but didn’t read this until today.
    So I didn’t purchase the one you mentioned, but we will see how the one I bought will do.
    I also got the radishes, couldn’t fine the Hakeuri brand but got the French Breakfast type. Since I am not a fan anyway. I thought what the heck. I also got some more beets as well. I pulled all of the ones I planted because the flea beetles skeletonized the leaves as well. I figured they wouldn’t grow so I chucked them.
    I bought some bush beans as well. I love green beans and was so disappointed to see what those flea beetles did to them.
    Anyway, I love my garden no matter and am going to get more straw so if anything I plant doesn’t do well, I will put the girl to bed under a soft blanket of lovely straw.
    Enjoy your day today.
    I think I might try and grow a small Lilac Bush. Today is the anniversary of 9/11 and my cousin more like my sister actually was killed in the attack and she LOVED Lilacs, and peonies.
    need to plant something in her memory.
    Susan

  • Ray, nothing new comes to mind about the black spot you describe.
    If I think of anything, I’ll let you know. Sure sorry you’ve had that problem.

    Hi Susan,
    To clarify — French Breakfast is a good radish but they are not turnips. Hakurei turnips are turnips. Hakurei is a variety of turnips rather than a brand name.

    I have a feeling that it was Mexican bean beetles that got your bush beans rather than flea beetles.

    Regarding flea beetles: many things can sometimes recover from flea beetle damage. Beets are one. If you pull things up too soon you may never know and cheat yourself of a learning experience.

    That’s a lovely thought to plant something in memory of your cousin. If you decide on a Lilac Bush just know that it may take up a lot of your garden space.

    Theresa

  • Good Morning Theresa,
    I realized that I should have left the beets but the leaves looked so, so, bad, I figured they were goners. I know the eggplant recovered a bit. they didn’t do very well.
    How do you prevent bean beetles from decimating your beans? I didn’t notice that happening to anyone else’s beans. But I think that other gardens were growing beans on a vine?
    It was just sad to see, all the leaves gone. Well the skeletons of the leaves were there.
    You are right about the Lilac, it will at some point shadow the plants. I wonder if they make a miniature one?
    Perhaps I could plant one in the garden area for everyone to enjoy. She loved them so. She liked peonies too. Those take up less room for sure.
    Picked a few more Tomatoes and a bunch of Carrots yesterday. More carrots still there. They did better than I expected.
    Always a surprise going to the garden.
    I think the birds enjoyed my sunflowers . Well something enjoyed them. not a seed left on the flower.
    As always, I enjoy your sage advice.
    Susan

  • Susan,

    Here are stories that may help:

    I’ve grown about every variety of beet there is, but Detroit Red is my favorite – due in part to their beauty as well as good taste.
    Several years ago my beets were attack by flea beetles rather late in the season. The leaves were completely decimated. I almost pulled them up but instead just forgot about them. When I finally got back to them in late summer (probably Sept.) they were the most gorgeous beets I’ve ever grown.

    When I grow eggplant I usually start 6 plants. I had many years that only 2 plants of the 6 looked good and produced after the flea beetle attack. Some years 4 made it ok and did well.

    You might want to see pictures and review this post:https://tendingmygarden.com/eggplant-and-grow-bags-a-great-combination/

    And although I had better success with grow bags I also had success without them.
    So don’t think that you need a grow bag to be successful. It was just a way that I protected the seedlings from flea beetles for a bit longer to give them a better start. You could do the same thing by growing a seedling in a container until they got big enough to ward off the attack better.

    When we first moved to this location in 1998, Mexican bean beetles totally ruined my beans. Like yours – only the skeleton of the leaf remained.
    After that I wasn’t bothered so much by them although I do have some beetles here and there in some years.
    I think that’s due in part to all my beneficial insects that I have in the garden. And you’ll have them too if you continue to provide the habitat they need. Herbs and flowers provide nectar for them; pest insects will provide food for their larvae.

    The Mexican bean beetles have a yellow larvae usually on underside of leaves. Look for them and destroy them. Also usually yellow eggs in a cluster of about 30 or so. Destroy those as well.
    Just make sure you don’t accidentally destroy the larvae of the ladybug because ladybugs prey on the beetles. Google pictures of each and make sure you know the difference.

    Loved hearing that you carrots are doing so well! And it sounds like the sunflowers were a hit with the birds.

    Keep it up Susan! 🙂

    Theresa

  • I will go to the garden this evening after work. I will google pictures of the larvae of the mexican bean beetle too. I have not notice anything that you describe, but I wasn’t paying very good attention.
    I did see a ladybug, I hope there are more which I have not seen. The butterflies in the garden make me very happy. They LOVE the zinnias.
    Enjoy the day. Hope it is sunny in Virginia. Feels a bit Fall-ish in NY.
    Susan

  • Today the temperatures feel like fall here also Susan. Yesterday was 90ºF and today is 75ºF! Not sunny, but really nice.
    I think you’ll have more ladybugs with each passing season.
    I think you have herbs already, but if not be sure to plant some next spring because they’re excellent to feed beneficials.
    Theresa

  • Hi Theresa,
    I wonder if what I thought was a lady bug was in fact a Mexican Beetle?
    They really do look similar.
    I will check more closely when I go today.
    I don’t mind Lady bugs, or lady birds, which is what they are called in England. But NOT Mexican Beetles.
    Enjoy the lovely weather. I really love this time of year.

  • Something that might help Susan — if you have a lot of MBBeetles you’ll see a lot more of their larvae than you will the ladybug larvae. At least that’s been the case in my garden for 40 years.
    Keep me updated.
    Theresa

  • While at the garden on Saturday, I checked all of the plants left and didn’t notice anything resembling Mexican Beetle Larvae. Might it be in the weed pile? Everything looks o.k. except for what is left of the tomato plants. The main stalks didn’t get very thick and look spindly. lots of dead foliage. I will leave them till the last tomato gets red.
    I got rid of the last zucchini plant as well. It was taking up sooo much room and it didn’t look all that healthy. Don’t think I will plant any next year. If I do I will only plant 1. The garden across the way has zucchini but they look so compact. Looks like the gardener just put the growth on top of the main plant so it is growing in a circle. Much more compact.
    Enjoy your day.

  • Hi Susan,
    If you placed the old bean plants (you mentioned sometime back) that were infested on the weed pile – the larvae have probably already matured. You might take a quick look to see if you see any adult beetles and kill them if you can since they may winter over there.

    The main thing at this point in time is to be aware next year and keep a check on the leaves for adults, eggs and larvae.

    Dead foliage (especially at the bottom) of your tomato plants is common this late in the season. Probably is early blight (which is not necessarily early). If you want to know more of early blight you could review this post: https://tendingmygarden.com/early-blight-on-tomatoes-theres-hope/

    Regarding your zucchini plant “not looking all that healthy”.
    At the end of their life most plants don’t usually look beautiful and lush — which could be what you mean by “healthy”. Probably should not be much of a concern. I think you did amazingly well with your squash.

    Looking forward to your next update on what’s germinating for your fall garden.
    Theresa

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