Think Ahead for a Fall Garden

Cold-Frame
Cold Frame Photo from Iowa State University Extension

It may seem that our gardening season finishes up as soon as it begins. This is the time, however, to start thinking about fall gardens and succession planting to extend your gardening season.

Start transplants indoors now

Fall gardening can be more beneficial than spring gardening. Some of our spring crops will actually grow better and produce better under cooler fall weather than they do in warmer spring temperatures. The weather often warms up quicker in the spring and can cause our spring crops to bolt or die early with little production. The longer, cooler fall season can be the answer to this problem.

The average first frost date for most of Southeast Nebraska is October 6-16, this comes from data from the High Plains Regional Climate Center. You can use the first frost date to figure out when to plant fall crops. Use the first frost date as a starting point, count backward the number of days to harvest listed on the packet of seeds and add a 10 day fall factor because the plants will mature slower due to the cooler weather. Plants or seeds should be planted in late July to early August.

Some of our fall plants could be started indoors now to get a transplant ready for fall planting season. Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and others can be started indoors now so they are ready to be planted outdoors in late summer. Some of these cool season crops need 65-85 days to maturity and may do better if they are planted as transplants. Start them indoors now to be planted in mid-August to ensure harvest prior to heavy freeze.

Order transplants and garlic now to plant in September

Some local nurseries may not carry the transplants for your fall garden later into the season. A lot of the nurseries will clear out plant inventory by the later part of June and may not have these crops available in August for fall gardening. Check around to look for local inventory and see which nurseries will still carry these crops later in the season for fall planting. If you cannot find them locally, you can order seeds or transplants from mail order catalogs or through the online shopping options.

garlic-olga-filonenko-flickr
Flickr image courtesy of Olga Filonenko per CC license.

Garlic is another crop that is planted in the fall, but it isn’t harvested in the fall. Plant garlic in October to be harvested the following June. Garlic needs to be planted in the fall because the new plants need to be exposed to cold soil temperatures for 1-2 months to form the bulb that will be harvested next summer. Even though it is early for planting garlic, you might want to order this early because garlic is difficult to find at planting time.

Plant second round of summer crops

Succession cropping, or double cropping can be done in our gardens as well. This is a gardening technique that allows a gardener to utilize a longer season of growth with multiple or the same crops. An early crop is grown, harvested, cleared off and a new one replaces that first crop. You can also do a staggered planting where you continually plant every week or 2 in the early season or plant an additional crop later in the season for longer harvest. Staggered planting can be helpful to avoid peak insect populations and avoid the majority of the damage on crops. Start your second crop in July if you haven’t already planted again.

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