Gardening is a hobby that you can spend a lifetime learning about. Seasons change, seeds fail or thrive, and just when you think you know it all, you realize how much there still is to learn. Direct Energy’s Gardening Series is a follow-along guide to embrace the beauty and challenges involved in being a gardener. As a craft that requires patience, creativity, and endurance, gardening can be enjoyed by those of all ages, and is one of the most satisfying ways to spend an early morning or late afternoon. Follow along as we show you how to begin, which herbs grow the best, and other tips on how to plant a garden that will flourish under your care.
A lover of gardening knows that there is nothing as rewarding and delicious as growing your own fruits and vegetables.
While many gardeners enjoy simply growing flowers, ornamental trees, or shade-loving ferneries, the dedicated gardeners that rotate their gardens seasonally become attuned with the weather and the food that can be grown in their soil right outside their kitchen door.
As always, you want to approach growing food with organic and sustainable processes in mind. Seek organic seed, and use materials you have around the yard for mulching such as leaves and pine needles once your seedlings emerge. Heirloom seeds are even better to grow and produce fruit and vegetables like our grandparents may have grown.
Here are our tips on planting fruit and vegetable plants this fall season, with high harvest yields in mind!
Timing is Everything
While the growing seasons are diverse from New York to Texas to California, there are general rules of thumb when it comes to the planting season.
On average, you want to plant vegetables approximately 10-12 weeks before the first killing frost appears. This is of course impossible to determine, but use averages to make your best estimate.
Before you purchase any seeds you will want to be sure as to what zone you are planting in, and follow the seed instructions accordingly for what depth to plant them, and when to plant.
Growing zones help determine the best planting times for your geographical region, and aid you in getting success in the garden. Warmer areas like Texas and Louisiana lie in zone 9 planting, whereas the northeastern United States lies in zone 3-5. The further north you travel, the lower the zone number will be. Often times zone suggestions are given on a plant’s label so that you will avoid subjecting your seeds to abnormally cold or warm temperatures, and disappointing growing results.
In addition to zones, some seeds are also recommended to start indoors, rather than direct sowing into the soil. When shopping for plants, you can get a lot of information, like these types of recommendations, from their labels.
The Season for Greens
The fall season is the time when all of those nutritious leafy green vegetables appear.
Vegetables like kale, chard, lettuce and spinach are grown in autumn, and when leaves are harvested while young, the plant will continue to grow and produce more foliage for eating.
I have never grown a lettuce or a kale variety that I didn’t love. Used in smoothies, stir fries, quiches, salads, or turned into chips, get creative with your kale seed selection and try something new.
The same goes for lettuce. Once you open up the door and see what varieties are on the market, especially heirloom varietals, you’ll be amazed at the shapes and colors available, with varying flavors.
Turnips, beets and carrots are tuberous root vegetables, and love those cool overnight temperatures of the fall season.
While the edible part of the vegetable is what grows beneath the surface, you can also use the greens of all these plants for smoothies, stir fries, and any other method you would use leafy greens!
When selecting carrots, don’t just stick with orange varietals. Carrots were originally grown purple, and the odd white or yellow one could be found in the wild. Over time, growers developed their methods to produce the orange carrots we know and are so familiar with today.
Beet seeds often require soaking prior to planting. Check with the seed packet a day before you plan to do your planting, so you’re prepared and not having to push back seeding by a day.
Turnips tend to be planted most typically at the tail end of summer, all the way through October. You can expect to harvest them in the latter fall months.
The Cabbage Family
Cress, cauliflowers, broccoli, mustard, cabbage and radish all fall within the cabbage family, and thrive in those cool, fall temperatures.
Cabbage likes to be started indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date is expected. One rule of thumb with the cabbage family is to plant it in a different location each year. This is small scale crop rotation, and a trick to healthy growing that most large scale organic farmers are well aware of.
Cauliflowers and broccoli also like to be started indoors prior to transplanting seedlings, and will head into the ground roughly 2 weeks prior to the last frost date. Broccoli leaves can also be eaten and enjoyed prior to cutting off the crowns!
The Fall Fruit Orchard
Fruit on citrus trees is ripe by mid winter, however in the fall, we look forward to pomegranates, persimmons and apples producing fruit of the season.
Late fall is a great time to plant an apple tree if you live in the warmer southern climates. If you are further north, then you will want to wait until the spring. The important thing is that the apple tree must be dormant, so be sure to plant before those little buds of spring appear.
Apples require 6 or more hours of sunlight, and seek well draining soil. For varieties that are not self-fertile, you will need to plant another tree nearby that is a different variety, but still an apple tree, as two trees of the same variety will not pollinate each other.
You also want to research your area for which varieties grow best. What grows down south won’t necessarily do well up north!
Bonus: Nut Trees
Aside from many delicious fruits and vegetables, this is also the time of year when pecans, chestnuts, hazelnuts and walnuts are all harvested. However, most nut trees are typically planted as bare-root transplants when the tree is dormant, sometime between December and March.
As you prepare your fall gardening, be sure and keep a space in your yard for planting a nut tree at the tail end of the season.
Water amounts and insect controls play a huge factor in the quality and flavor of your particular nut. Be sure and provide adequate mulch, fertilizer, and most importantly, water.
Nuts are best when harvested early in the season, rather than letting them fall and sit on moist ground, which makes them prone to rot and insects.
What are you planting in your edible garden this season?