I’m gearing up for the fall garden. Gearing up means 1) figuring out what to plant, and 2) taking special precautions against the wildlife, to avoid a situation like last year. For item two, CFO and I installed a temporary barrier around the garden until we find a permanent fence style that is the trifecta: effective, inexpensive, and not hideous. In the meantime, I am hoping that the one-two punch of invisible mesh and roaming coyotes will keep the deer at bay long enough to get some Brussels sprouts.
To address item one, you want to consider that fall garden planning can really start when all the other spring and summer garden planning happens. For me, the planning doesn’t really have a start or stop date, its just an amorphous thought bubble constantly hovering over me. For normal people, maybe in February. At the very least you want to identify your expected first frost date for your zone, so you can determine when to start with the planting.
Generally speaking, the fall garden will look a lot like the spring garden but in reverse. Peas, lettuces, radishes, beets, etc. can all be sown in late summer and will produce as the weather starts to cool. In some cases, it is almost easier than dealing with the spring because you are less likely to have random 90 deg days like you do in the May (I am talking to YOU Milwaukee Spring 2016!).
We like think of “fall vegetables” as rootstock like carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, etc. and for good reason. Soil is a great storage method, and the tasty root will hold up through some very cold temps. In fact, I have read via the highly regarded and scientifically supported internet that you can fabricate your own make-shift root cellar with a bucket full of sand. (Disclaimer: if you try this and end up with a weird food-borne infection from sand-bug contaminated turnips, please send all legal inquiries to aforesaid internet).
One bonus of the fall garden is that, in my climate (zone 5B), many of the spring veggies I had to transplant in May, can be directly sown in August, and will be ready to harvest come fall. One exception to this, of course, is the wildly underappreciated Belgian brassica, the Brussels sprout. My coworker once traveled to Brussels and upon her return raved about the fantastic sprouts that looked like little cabbages, and were unlike anything she had ever seen. They sounded amazing. But, I digress. I recommend starting this one indoors in spring, and transplanting out late July. They usually take anywhere from 100-120 days from transplant and taste best after having experienced some character-building freezes in November. If you haven’t got your tiny cabbages started, you may be out of luck in the north this year and you will just have to meander around the village looking the steal the Brussels sprouts of better prepared neighbors.
By mid-August, I will have seeds sown for broccoli, cauliflower, mizuna, carrots, parlsey root, parsnip, turnip, and rutabaga, and in September the short season lettuces and leafy greens and radishes that can handle a cooler germination period will be sown.
What are you growing this fall?