The time has come to start tending to your soon-to-be-growing autumn garden.
Although keeping an autumn garden is quite similar to keeping a summer garden, there are a few things to keep in mind.
I reached out to a handful of gardening experts for tried-and-true advice that can help you start and maintain your autumn garden with ease.
It’s all about timing
The first few things I learned long ago while planting my first autumn garden were:
1. Some plants won’t survive in cool fall temperatures.
2. You plant winter squash in the spring and harvest it in the fall.
Although these two bits of information may seem, well, obvious, some novice gardeners just don’t know.
So, for example, pumpkin patches are filled with pumpkins come October because gardeners plant their pumpkin seeds in May, or April. I planted an heirloom variety of pumpkin called Connecticut Field back in May. This was my first year planting this crop, so, I lost quite a few squash. But thankfully, I was able to harvest one surviving pumpkin in late August.
Also, you never see tomatoes thriving in cold or cooler climates come October because tomatoes need heat to survive. Although it’s still quite hot where I live in Kansas, I already notice that my garden’s tomato output is dwindling.
Plant what works
Certain vegetables and flowers do well come autumn. The following varieties are suggestions from experts we consulted.
“The best plants for fall gardens are cool season crops,” Tyler Davis, certified plant expert from Orchard Supply Hardware, says.
Cool season crops include:
- onions (for harvesting in spring)
- brassicas, “a group of vegetables that include cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts (among others),” Davis adds.
Amy Stross, author of "The Suburban Micro-Farm: Modern Solutions for Busy People," reminds gardeners that most fall crops need to be sown far in advance of a gardener’s region's fall frost date.
“For example, in my zone 6 garden [she ’s located in the midwest, in Cincinnati], I can still sow radishes, spinach, and turnips,” Stross says.
“I could try my luck at the following crops that need just a bit more time: beets, lettuce, and Swiss chard. Crops like broccoli, carrots, and peas need even more time, so I usually sow them in July.”
Doug Oster, home and garden editor for Everybody Gardens, adds that there are plenty plants that can be planted in the autumn and enjoyed later, come spring.
“Most trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs enjoy fall planting due to day length and cooler temperatures,” Oster says.
“These are conducive to root growth, not top growth. This allows the plant to get established before the end of the season, go dormant and then be resurrected in the spring.”
Davis warns that insects are still an issue in the fall—especially early fall. “The temperatures are still somewhat warm and insects have not gone underground or into their dormancy stage,” Davis says.
Gardeners should watch out for caterpillars, the white fly, and other types of insects.
Another challenge is watering. Although some areas receive rain in the fall months, other areas do not. Ensure your garden is located near a source of water.
“Keep in mind, the further your garden is from water, the bigger chance there is of your garden not getting enough,” Davis says. “Always use a hose or watering can to make sure your garden is getting enough water.”
Also, consider where you garden is planted.
“Like summer vegetable gardens, fall veggie gardens prefer full sun,” Davis says. “Since light is diminished in the fall due to shorter days, you’ll want to be sure your garden is sighted in full sun areas only.”