As the growing season winds down, summer chores will need to be adjusted to accommodate the new rhythms. Weeding will be less demanding, harvests will slow down, and the garden may be a bit chilly in the morning. The water requirements of your garden will change, too.
With rainfall on the horizon during the fall season, you might even wonder if you need to water the garden anymore.
Through irrigation or natural rainfall, home gardens still need to be watered in the fall season. If there are weeks without rain, continue watering one inch per week for plants still producing. If rainfall happens occasionally, check the soil to determine if extra water is necessary.
How to handle watering your garden will depend on where you live and what your fall weather is like, so read on for some recommendations.
Should you water your garden in the fall?
Unless you live in a climate that gets regular rainfall at the beginning of the fall season, you will still need to spend some time watering the garden to keep your plants healthy and productive. Even though the weather is cooling off, regular irrigation will encourage the plants to keep producing as long as possible.
This is especially important for greens, quick-growing root crops like radishes, or cold-tolerant flowers such as calendulas and snapdragons. Summer crops can still produce food and flowers for you, and any fall sown crops will need to stay moist until the seeds sprout, just like in the spring.
Fall technically starts in September, and it’s typically still a dry month in many areas of the US. Depending on the region, temperatures might begin to drop, but the rain has yet to pick up. If this is true for where you live, then continue your summer watering schedule into the fall.
This way, your vegetable and flower gardens will continue to produce until a fall frost kills them or continually decreasing daylight hours stop production altogether.
If fall rains have started in your area, you might not need to water as frequently. If you only get the occasional shower, then go ahead and check your soil and decide based on how saturated it is.
On the other hand, if you’ve experienced multiple days of rain in a short period, then it’s probably safe to say that you can turn off your irrigation and let the soil drain.
To be sure you have a handle on the water needs of your garden, check out this post, Watering Your Garden Through The Season: A Complete Guide. From seedling to mature plant, spring to fall, you’ll know exactly how to take care of your plants.
How often should you water your garden in the fall?
With lower air temperatures, your plants will use water more slowly than during the peak of summer. That means irrigation frequency could slow down to once every two weeks instead of the typical once or twice per week watering.
If you’re not sure if you should water this week, the best way to find out is to test the soil. For a typical week with one inch of irrigation or rainfall, the ground will be damp eight or nine inches into the soil. If you test your soil by feeling the dirt that far down and it’s dry, then it’s time to water.
Another factor influencing how often you should water in the fall is the wind. Fall wind storms can dry out the soil more quickly than you would expect. As the wind blows across the top of your garden beds, the plant stems and leaves lose water. It’s up to you, the gardener, to replace that water through irrigation if there is no rain in the forecast.
New York Botanical Garden goes into further detail about wind desiccation, or drying out, if you’d like to learn more.
When should you stop watering your garden in the fall?
You can stop watering once there is regular rainfall during the fall season or the ground freezes. If you live in a warm area where it doesn’t rain regularly, even in the fall, or the temperatures never drop low enough to freeze, then you may have to continue watering without any extended break.
If your region is known to get colder temperatures and have frozen ground, then it’s crucial to keep watering your plants all the way up to a freeze. Once the ground is frozen, the plants can’t absorb any water. They need to have stored all the water they’ll need in their roots, to be rationed out as the season’s cold weather drags on.
Without well-hydrated roots, the plant could end up drying out and dying even as snow lays on the ground around it. Talk about ironic!
Exceptions are annual flower and vegetable crops that you won’t leave in the garden through winter. Since they won’t be overwintering, there’s no need to hydrate enough to withstand a freeze or snow event. Just water them regularly so they keep producing through the fall, and when a freeze kills them, pull them out and put them in the compost.
But for overwintering crops like kale or cabbage, keep the roots hydrated so you can enjoy those goodies with the spring thaw.
And don’t forget to read up on more watering do’s and don’t’s in this post, Watering Your Garden Through The Season: A Complete Guide.