Autumn is officially here, and it’s time to prep your garden for the colder weather. What you do in the fall will also help your garden be more productive in the spring and summer. Not only will planting a fall garden extend the harvest season and provide fresh food until winter, but a fall garden will also improve soil structure and fertility.
Here are some of the best plants for a fall garden that will provide fresh food and colorful blooms.
Prepare The Soil
All old plant matter, mulch, and other debris should be removed from the soil when summer plants have finished production. Mid-August through October is the ideal time for planting a fall garden, depending on your growing zone and the predicted first frost date. Visit https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/ and type in your zip code to determine your growing area. Indiana growing zones are generally reasonably consistent across the state
Add 2-4 inches of compost to the top of the soil and work it down to around 6-inches deep. The compost will keep the fall plants fed and improve drainage and support the overall health of the plants.
Best Fall Plants
Plants in the cool-season category are best for growing in the fall, and some of these plants will taste better after a light frost has fallen on them.
Check the calendar for the first predicted frost date in your area, then count backward to today’s date. That provides an idea of how many growing days you have from planting to harvest time.
Select plants that have a maturing time within that time frame. For example, carrots, spinach, and radishes will be ready to harvest within 40 days. Add fall floral color with chrysanthemums and pansies that thrive in colder weather.
Fall/Winter Cover Crop
Even if you don’t like the taste of most of the cool-season vegetables, planting some of them as a fall/winter cover crop in the garden will improve the soil for better vegetable and flower production next year.
Plant cover crops like kale, turnips, collards, spinach, and legumes to prevent soil erosion, prevent compaction and increase fertility. Turn the plants under in early spring, and they will quickly decompose and improve soil structure.
Some of the best crops to plant in the fall include salad greens, like lettuce, spinach, kale, collards, arugula, and mizuna. Other autumn veggies include radish, turnip, kohlrabi, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Visit your local garden shops to buy seeds before it’s too late.