What to Plant for a Bountiful Fall Garden


Fall GardenIt’s time to start thinking in terms of your fall garden. Depending upon the type of year we’re having, your spring and summer garden may already be fading, or your summer garden can extend into late July or August. But, regardless, you will no doubt have some space opening up that will be perfect for planting some or all of the 5 most popular fall garden favorites.

But, before you plant, you have a bit of housecleaning to do. You should pull out all of your fading plants; weed thoroughly, cut back any encroaching overgrowth from other garden plants, and then amend your soil in preparation for receiving the new plants or seeds. If you use compost, that should be an easy process, but if you don’t, you may want to test your soil to ensure the soil has the necessary essential nutrients to support plant growth. Inexpensive soil testers are easy-to-use and an invaluable tool. If you don’t test, then use a slow-release all-around fertilizer for vegetable plants. You should also rotate your crops, which simply means that you don’t plant broccoli in the same place you planted your earlier broccoli. Plant peppers there instead! And the soil should be well-turned and de-clumped, just as it was when you first started your garden in the spring. Also keep in mind that you don’t have to have had a spring/summer garden in order to have a fall garden. Just start fresh!

Now…what to grow! The five most popular fall garden vegetables are:

    • Tomatoes-as the growing season is slowing down, now may be the perfect time to plant some ‘determinate’ tomato varieties. Determinate tomato plants will produce all of their tomatoes right around the same time, and then will be done for the season. This makes them perfect for late gardens and fall harvest is the perfect time to grow a bunch for home-canning. Determinate tomatoes sometimes have a longer maturity date though, so double-check your drop-dead date for the first killing frost in your area and plan accordingly.
    • Peppers-now is also the perfect time to plant more peppers! (Especially if you plant tomatoes-think salsa!) You can plant both hot peppers, which may actually still be producing from your summer garden, or all of the colored bell peppers that add so much flavor and color to dishes throughout the winter. Both Bell peppers and hot peppers freeze remarkably well. You just seed them, slice into strips, make sure they are fairly dry before freezing, and then double-bag them, squeezing as much air out as possible before closing them up. They are easy to separate as needed. You can also do some chopped, if you use them that way, or freeze them in individual use sizes if you have regular recipes that call for a specific amount. You can even roast them before freezing! What a time-saver!
    • Lettuce-you’ve probably had to resort to buying lettuce at the grocery store as June turned to July, depending again upon the temperatures for the year. Lettuce is one of the first vegetables to plant in the spring, but is also one of the first vegetables to become a victim to summertime heat. Lettuce, very simply, likes cooler temperatures and even when some varieties claim to be more “bolt-resistant”, the results are not always the best, unless you provide adequate shade and a lot of TLC. So, your fall garden can be devoted to every type of lettuce that you have not been fortunate enough to be able to harvest lately. Be careful though not to plant too much at one time. If you stagger your plantings by a couple of weeks or so, you will have a nice supply of lettuce, even through the first light frosts of late fall.
    • Brussels sprouts-you either love these or hate these! But growing them is fun and interesting-they are one of the most unusual looking vegetables when growing. Brussels sprouts can be either frozen or pickled, but heat processing is not recommended because it intensifies strong flavors and discolors the vegetable. Brussels sprouts already have a relatively strong flavor. But, even the most avid “sprouts hater” has grown to be a “sprouts lover” when they are prepared just right and the brave soul has taken a leap of faith by taking a small bite. Try them hot, right out of the pan, roasted with a bit of olive oil and sea salt and then topped with your favorite grated cheese. They will hardly taste like they are chock full of vitamins, minerals and fiber and as long as you are not boiling them to mush, you may be pleasantly surprised!
  • Broccoli-is also a most popular fall garden staple, though some varieties are being grown throughout the spring and summer and right into the fall, depending widely upon the summer heat in any specific area. Another exceptional vitamin source, broccoli is also perfect for freezing, taking a minimum of preparation and retaining the majority of its healthy aspects and crisp texture. Broccoli is a great all-around vegetable that is at home in just about any dish. Add tiny florets to buttered noodles or rice to give it a little pizzazz; add broccoli to just about any cheesy casserole to add color and flavor, or mix broccoli with just about any other different-colored vegetable for a change of taste. Broccoli is an “accessorizing” vegetable that is not only good when it stands alone, but is a great accompaniment to just about everything else.

So, there you have it! The top 5! But don’t stop there. Any vegetable that enjoys the cooler spring temperatures will also love the cooler fall days and nights. And don’t forget pumpkins, squash and gourds. It is truly amazing how a vine or two can add tremendous life and color to a fading summer garden!

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