After only a season of gardening in my new raised beds, I’m already looking forward to my next crop! Come see what I’m starting as seeds and what’s going straight into the ground this fall. As I am preparing a fall vegetable garden, I hope to inspire you to use your garden space for more than summer veggies this year.
Preparing for Fall Vegetables
If you don’t know already, we are located in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area. That puts us into Zone 9 a-b, we are just in between the two. This means long hot, humid summers that can roast your summer garden come July. Lucky for me, I planted many items in late February and they were over and done by now. Although we just got into the month of August, the rest of my summer plants were looking super dry and crummy! In the late part of summer, there really is no keeping up with watering due to the heat. All that is fine with me though, because that means I get to start thinking of cooler seasons and preparing a fall vegetable garden.
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Why Do I need to Prepare for a Fall Vegetable Garden?
Gardening is such and interesting thing and there is a good amount of thought and planning that goes into it. I never was aware of that until I began my own vegetable garden. The extent of my gardening skills in the past have been with landscaping plants. With these, the planning is pretty limited. You can just go and buy (mostly) whatever plants you wish and pop them into the ground where you like them. Easy peasy!
Preparing for a vegetable garden is more about the long term than instant gratification. However, it’s also much more rewarding in my opinion. Once that vegetable that you started as a teeny seed gives you harvest, you’ll be hooked just like me!
What to Consider when preparing a Fall Vegetable Garden:
- What Zone are you in? Use this Plant Hardiness Zone Map from the USDA to see what zone you fall in. This is critical for the success of your fall garden.
- Once you know your zone, you can research a little about what will grow great in your area for Fall and Winter harvests. I use SeedsNOW.com because they do such an incredible job categorizing all their many varieties of seeds.
- Don’t forget to consider what type of vegetables you and your family like to eat! Sometimes I get lofty dreams of growing asparagus, brussel sprouts, or tons of winter squash… Then I remember that no one but me likes any of these and I really shouldn’t waste the garden space.
- Order your seeds and get ready for the time to come when you’ll be starting seeds soon!
Getting Seeds Started
Summer gardening is a bit easier than preparing for a fall vegetable garden in a few ways. Summer veggies are easy to find in both big box stores and nurseries all spring and summer long. Finding fall and winter vegetables that have been started, it next to impossible. You’re probably better off looking for a local grower if you’re in the market for started plants.
I like to buy my seeds a little bit earlier, like mid summer, and be prepared when it’s time to start them indoors. How do you know when it’s time? Take a look at your seed package and it will tell you exactly how long the item takes to sprout and how long it takes to mature (bear fruit). Counting backward from your area’s first frost date, you’ll be able to find when is the best time to start each plant.
Since here in Louisiana we have the luxury of a pretty late first frost, I’m not as worried about the precise dates that I’m starting my fall crops. I recently started my first round of seedlings indoors. To prepare for our fall vegetable garden, I started my leafy greens, lettuces, broccoli and cabbage indoors. Some have even sprouted already!
Tips for Starting Seed Indoors
- Start seeds indoors about 3-5 weeks before planning to move them outside.
- Be sure to harden off seedlings before transplanting. Find more information about hardening off seedlings here.
- If you’re planning to grow leafy veggies, it’s best to start batches of seeds 10 days to two weeks apart. This will allow you to extend your harvests since leafy veg tends to bolt quickly.
- Use artificial light on a timer, placed a couple inches above your seedlings to prevent them from growing too spindly and leggy.
Preparing Your Garden Bed for Fall Planting
Once you see that you’re summer garden is mostly done, it’s time to get cleaning! I enjoyed my summer garden so much this season. It was perfect for experimenting. I found out first hand things like how much a tomato plant produces, how cucumbers vine and grow, and how much my chickens like veggies as well!
I started to see things really browning and most production coming to a halt over the past couple weeks. As I said before, the heat has been killer. By this weekend, I was ready to remove everything that was past it’s prime. So I worked most of Saturday morning pulling up cucumbers, beans, melon vines that were out of control, summer squash, and most of my cut flowers too.
After the beds are empty or mostly empty- I still have a few late tomatoes coming in- I aerated the soil by turning it over with a hoe really well. Loosening that hard soil was the first step. Since my raised beds are only a season old, the soil level is still good. In some cases, you may need to add new soil to bring the soil level back up.
After aerating, I added in some compost material and tossed it around with the hoe as well. It’s good to allow the compost material and new soil time to continue breaking down before introducing your new fall plants.
What’s Next for the Fall Garden?
- Allow started seeds to grow and then harden off outdoors.
- Till garden soil once more before putting in seedlings or direct sowing seeds.
- Plan out the plants placement in the raised beds according to sunlight requirements.
- Direct sow seeds. I ordered some things that will go straight into the raised beds in a few weeks. These include: radishes, carrot, oregano, parsley, spinach and cauliflower.
Purchasing High Quality Seeds
If you’re looking for a reputable online seed source I highly recommend SeedsNOW.com. Their seeds are non GMO, heirloom varieties and they have a vast collection! Their website makes it simple to plan a garden for your Zone or taste.
Use my personal link to SeedsNOW.com for a discount at checkout and Happy Shopping!
Find more of my OHL Gardening Tips here. I’m sharing how to choose what gardening method is best for you!
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