Fall Garden To Do’s : 7 Steps to Get Your Garden Ready for Fall

Jessica Sowards is among many other things, a gardening guru.  I was so excited and thankful when she agreed to guest blog and share her Fall gardening To Do’s.  Jessica shares 7 things she does in her garden to get ready for the colder months ahead, and trust me, if Jessica is doing it in her garden, you likely want to be doing it in your garden too!  More of Jessica can be found on Instagram @roots_and_refuge and her YouTube channel “Roots and Refuge Farm”.

In the Spring, Every gardening center, hardware store, and farmers co-op will be bursting to the seams with gardening supplies.  Even the big box stores will jump on the bandwagon and offer seeds to started plants and everything in between.  Fall, however, is a different story.  They garden centers have significantly shortened their hours and the box stores have already lined their shelved with Christmas decoration.  This doesn’t mean you should forsake your garden until Spring.

Your Fall gardening to-do list will vary greatly based on your desire to grow food thought the Winter.  If you covet the break from daily garden chores, tuck your garden in and pur her to sleep until next year.  If you desire to grow whatever food you can, and you are up for the task of providing a little cover to your plants, there are plenty of cold-hardy options that will grow through Winter

  1. Take advantage of the cool October days and clean out the remains of the Summer garden now.  If you have blight or disease in your plants, do not compost them.  Instead, designate a burn pile and destroy the remains of any sick plants.  Everything else can be either composted or fed to the chickens!

2. If you do plan on planting any crops to overwinter, you can sow a tillage crop to improve soil health.  Things like turnips or daikon radishes can be broadcasted over the entirely of the garden.  They will break up compacted soil, their greens can provide a covering for the earth. and in the Spring, as your prepare for planting, you simply till your crop under.  As it breaks down, it adds air pockets and organic matter to your soil, greatly improving soil health. 

3. It’s a little late to direct sow many Fall crops, but don’t despair!  You can still forw food this Winter!  Often, started lettuces, kales and brassicas can be found for sale as late as October. You won’t likely find them at bigger chain stores, but can call around to your local garden centers.  These plants are generally cold hardy to about 15 degrees Farhenheit.

4. If you are facing temperatures lower than that, provide cover from chill and wind.  Row covers made for this purpose can be purchased on Amazon, or you can make your own from 6mL contractors plastic PVC pipe.  IF you have a small amount of plants, you can even use inverted clear plastic totes.  Just don’t forget to water your plants if they will be shielded from the rain!

5. It isn’t too late to direct sow radishes and baby salad greens.  As long as the soil can be kept warm enough for these things to germinate (those inverted plastic tubs come in hand here too!) they will grow steadily and surely.  Some may be too stunted by the cold to produce much now, but they will be your first harvest as the ground thaws in Spring.

6. Before the first freeze, plant potatoes for a June harvest.  They should be planted deeper thank you would place them in the Spring with a thick layer of mulch mounded on top of them. Also, this is the time to get your garlic in for next year.  Plant hard-neck varieties to enjoy delicious scapes in the Spring, and plant soft-neck varieties to keep for long storing.

7. And lastly, whether you decide to plant cold weather crops or not, mulch, mulch, mulch!  Soil needs a covering to maintain a healthy ecology.  Laying a thick later of straw, dead leaves, or woodchips down helps facilitate that.  It will lesson the amount of weeds you have to deal with in the Spring.  The organic matter will break down and add to your soil health.  And I you have planted cold weather plants, mounding mulch up around them will keep their roots warm and growing longer.

Often, the end of Summer season doesn’t bring a huge wave of motivation to get in the garden and grow, but these simple measures can alleviate hardship later and bring a harvest sooner.