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Fall-Winter Gardening – Time to Plan

In spite of the warm weather ahead it’s time to think about the fall and winter garden. What I’m planning for mine will help remind you and give you some ideas on what’s possible for your garden in the fall.

Covercrops

Soon, buckwheat will go into some of the garden beds that are empty. It’s my favorite cover crop and is such a help in adding organic matter to the soil.

It should bloom in about 6 weeks. I’ll let it bloom for the pollinators and beneficials and cut it before it seeds. I’ll then turn the top growth under. It’ll decompose before I plant any fall vegetables.

Other beds (that now contain crops) I’ll plant with buckwheat in late summer. The first frost should kill it. Leaving the frost-killed growth will protect the soil in those beds over the winter and add organic matter.

Potatoes

I had a few seed potatoes left over from the spring and am going to plant them this week.  I think I’ll have just enough time to get “new” potatoes again in the fall.  If not, they’ll be the first ones to give me potatoes next year.  So it’s a winning idea either way.

Beans

I try not to plant more than I can handle.  Since other crops take my allotted time in the spring, I wait until mid-June to plant beans.  I plant small sections every week or so through the first week in September. Once in a while the cold will keep my last planting from reaching maturity, but it’s worth the risk.  I always have at least a 50-50 chance of getting beans.

Depending on the Weather

If it’s not too hot and dry in August I’ll plant lettuce, radishes, Hakurei turnips, and various greens including my favorite winter green — spinach. (The cold makes it very sweet!) If the weather doesn’t cooperate I’ll plant in September.

When the severe cold comes, I’ll be ready with my makeshift cold frames to put over anything that would freeze.

Other Fall Crops

I’ve had many gardeners tell me they really enjoy growing broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and carrots for fall crops. Less bugs!

Garlic

Haven’t decided if I’ll plant garlic this year.  If I do, I’ll plant in October or November.

Onions

As always, some of my onions finished very small. I usually leave those in the ground and let them surprise me with spring onions in late winter or early spring. This year I cured some. I’ll plant them in a small bed in the fall. That way I’ll know exactly where my green onions are going to come up.

Keep in mind that this won’t work if you planted sets.

Peas

I’ve got all I need for winter so won’t plant a fall crop.

Parsley

I’ll seed more parsley now and plant where I can protect it from extreme cold this winter with a cold frame. That way, I’ll have it early spring and won’t have to wait.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • When you plan for your fall crops, stay away from spots that you know to be prone to early frost. Look for areas that get the most sun in winter.
  • When you choose your varieties, choose ones suited for fall and winter. For example, some lettuces (like Winter Density) do much better in the winter than others.

Planning Your Start Date

The key to growing vegetables for fall harvest is timing.

Fall has shorter days, cooling soil and less intense sunshine. Because of these differences, you have to allow about 14 extra days for crops to mature.

  • Determine your average frost date. 
  • Look at the seed packet to find days to maturity and add 14 days.
  • Calculate back from the frost date to get the date you’ll start your seed.

For example -Let’s say the frost date is October 15.  If the vegetable takes 60 days to mature plus the 14 days you need for slower growth in the fall, you’ll need a total of 74 days before frost.  Thus, you need to plant that particular vegetable by August 3rd or before.

Little Bit by Little Bit — But Planning is the Key

If you’re like me, you want those fresh vegetables coming in as long into the year as possible.  They make a big difference at meal times.  By planning now, it’ll be easy to schedule in the actual work little by little as you go along.  The pay off is great!

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8 comments to Fall-Winter Gardening – Time to Plan

  • gayle graham

    I love this post! Thanks!

    I’m wondering, this fall, can I plant some of the potatoes that I just harvested a week ago for an early spring crop? If so, how much time should I allow for fall growth?

  • Theresa

    I’m glad you like this post, Gayle. Obviously, you are one of those people who can read between the lines and gather even more information.

    Now — what I’m going to tell you is NOT going to be “ok’d” in any potato articles you read. AND — I must warn you ahead of time — you have to have an eagle eye out for any signs of disease trouble —- AND if your potatoes have any sign of disease DON’T even think about doing what I’m going to tell you.

    AND in addition – unless your potatoes that you planted this spring were certified disease free — I would NOT plant any of the resulting crop.

    Assuming that you don’t have any signs of disease – in any of your potatoes that you harvested —- and they were certified disease free to begin with —- yes I would plant some now for an early spring crop. Mulch heavily so they will be protected from freeze.

    I usually leave some tiny ones in the ground when I harvest. (It is not good to grow potatoes in the same place every year —- and I don’t — with the exception of leaving a few that will be “volunteers” in the following year.)

    These will NOT give you any growth this fall. They are finished until spring.

    The ones I saved from the spring have sprouts on them still and will give me growth his fall. If I can get them in the ground within the next few days, I should get small medium sized potatoes by fall. And of course, a lot will depend on the weather.

    Good luck with this. Feel free to ask if you have more questions. Let me know how you do!

    Theresa

    P.S. You might want to try 3 crops of potatoes one year. Plant one early. Another in May and another in June. That way you’ll get potatoes right along and won’t have them coming in all at once.

  • gayle graham

    Thanks for the advice! I did plant a very small late crop of potatoes in late June and they are looking good. We’ll see..

    Fortunately, my potatoes were certified disease free and most from the harvest look blemish free. What a good year for potatoes!

    Will plant just a few to see what happens in the spring.

  • Theresa

    I think you’ll be thrilled with the results. I always look forward to those early potatoes!

  • Sue

    Oh, I was hoping you were going to grow buckwheat for the crop. I do not know anything about growing it. I use it in my gluten free baking. I was excited thinking I could have grown another food I use. Using it as a ground cover sounds like a great idea.

  • Theresa

    Hi Sue,

    Buckwheat is easy to grow. I don’t let it go to seed though. Because it would reseed and might become a nuisance in my garden.

    I’ve never grown it for the grain. With a little research on how and when to harvest the grain, I’ll bet you could do it easily. : )

    Theresa

  • Heather

    Hello again Theresa. Are you going to sow a fall crop of peas this year? I want to try to get a crop of sugar snaps in but am not sure when to sow them. As you know I am pretty much in the same zone as you are.

    Also, do you direct sow all of your fall crops, or are there any that you start in pots?

    Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge!!!

  • Theresa

    Yes, Heather, I’m going to sow a fall crop of peas this year — but only one row. I’ll plant tomorrow.
    I direct sow peas and beans. Kale — have plenty of volunteers. Will start lettuce, greens,spinach, and some turnips. Will also sow directly some spinach and turnips.
    I’ll address more about peas in my letter to the special 100 list within the next day or two.
    Theresa

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