It’s hard to get motivated during the summer to put in a fall garden. The hustle and bustle of spring planting isn’t that far behind you, and a well-deserved nap sounds more fun than another round of sowing and planting.
If that sounds like you and more time has gone by than you’d planned on, know that it’s not too late to get your fall veggies and flowers in the garden. You just have to be strategic with what you choose to plant.
It’s not too late to plant vegetables and flowers for fall if you select varieties that can tolerate cool temperatures and survive light frosts. Plant seeds and seedlings by late summer so they will have time to establish themselves to thrive in cool weather and rain.
The next challenge will be to find room for the second wave of planting. I’ve got some tips lined up for you to help make that happen.
Squeeze in transplants or find room for direct sowing
One of the biggest challenges of a fall garden is finding room for new seedlings among the sea of mature and producing plants. There are a couple of ways to get around that, depending on how well you’ve planned.
You can reserve some open bed space in the spring, knowing that you will be planting in July or August with your fall crops. Another option is to squeeze seedings in among the mature plants, knowing that you’ll soon pull out the neighboring mature plants. Finally, you can take out old spring crops that are past their peak, such as spinach or spring-harvested peas, to make room.
Here are some examples of how I find room for summer plantings:
- Pull out spring pea plants, and replace with dinosaur kale that can tolerate summer heat and fall frost.
- Plant lettuce and spinach seedlings at the base of tomato plants. When I cut down the tomatoes, the greens will have plenty of room. In the meantime, the tomato plants provide some shade.
- Beets don’t appreciate hot soil, so I wait until I have some bare space in the late summer to sow these. That way they can grow right into cooler temperatures.
- Direct sow calendulas at the base of summer cucumbers and by the time they need more room, the cucumbers will be winding down.
- Start rudbeckia seeds indoors about six weeks before you want to get them in the garden. That way you can leave your summer crops in longer, and use the space for the rudbeckia seedlings when they’re ready.
These are only a few examples of how to work second plantings into your summer garden. It’s worth devising a few ways to get in those extra plants when the trade-off is an extended harvest of fresh produce and flowers from the garden.
To be sure you plant on time, reference this post to get the dates: New To Fall Gardens? Learn When To Plant One In Your Zone.
Now you’ve found some space, so it’s time to learn which varieties should go there.
Short maturity and cold hardiness are vital for fall vegetables
Each vegetable has an average amount of days to maturity. Some vegetables are very quick, such as radishes. They only need a month or less to produce a harvest. Others, like broccoli, take a bit longer. They’ll yield heads in about two months, depending on the variety.
These shorter growing times are perfect for the fall garden when you’re trying to grow as much food as you can before the fall frosts hit. As fall progresses and the weather cools, having cold-tolerant varieties in the garden will help you stretch the limits of what your garden can produce.
Spinach, for example, grows well in cool weather but will die back at the first kiss of frost. On the other hand, kale grows just fine through cool weather and can withstand frost. Having a variety of cold and frost-tolerant crops will keep the garden alive until a hard freeze, or extended snow cover takes the whole garden out.
Don’t waste time researching what to plant. Get the best choices right here in this post, Top 10 Crops For The Fall Vegetable Garden and get planting!
Plan ahead for fall flowers, or plant quick-growers
Flowers are a bit trickier than vegetables when it comes to the fall garden. While there are many varieties that grow quickly in just 50 or so days, there are plenty that can take as long as 100 days or more to produce blooms.
If you have time to start your flowers indoors in June or early July, you can be successful with planting slower growers such as snapdragons or rudbeckia. Starting the seeds indoors about eight weeks before transplanting helps buy some time to ensure you get blooms before the first frost.
On the other hand, if it’s heading into August and you still haven’t planted your next round of flowers for fall blooms, then err on the side of caution and stick to the fast-growing varieties such as calendula, marigold, and pansy. That way the seedlings have time to establish themselves in the warm summer weather.
Use this list for some hardy flowers that will bloom no matter the amount of time you have left in the season: 11 Fall Flowers That Will Bloom Beyond A Frost (with pictures!).
When to know that next year is a better bet
I’m not one to admit defeat in the garden, but if I’m looking at the weather forecast and I see weeks of rain ahead of me, then even I have to admit that now is probably not the best time to start at garden.
Seeds can’t germinate in continuous rain. Not only will they likely wash away, but they can also become saturated and rot before they even have a chance to sprout. If you start seeds indoors and transplant them out, even they will struggle to get a foothold under the canopy of rainclouds.
If this is your situation but you’re still debating whether it’s worth getting back out in the garden, check out this post, Planted Too Late In The Fall? What To Expect & A Better Solution, to see the way ahead.