Summer is peak season for vegetable gardens, but don’t dismiss Fall! YMCA community gardeners love fall gardens and have found that they actually offer many benefits and rewards. It turns out, we are not the only ones to enjoy the crisp air and bright blue skies of autumn. Cool-season crops thrive on days like these and in what seems like no time at all, present you with your own delicious lettuce, kale, beets, radishes and spinach.
Some vegetables are better adapted to fall gardening since they produce best quality and flavor when they can mature during cooler weather and you will have fewer pest and disease issues as well. Select vegetable varieties that have a shorter number of days to maturity for late season growing crops such as arugula, lettuce, turnips and spinach. (You will find this information on the back of the seed package). The cooler temperatures really bring out the flavor in vegetables such as kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Root vegetables like carrots, turnips, beets, onions, and radishes will grow well and completely withstand the upcoming cold weather. St. Louis’ first frost date is approximately October 15th.
So if you’re ready to get started on your fall garden, here are some tips from Kathleen Carson of Gateway Greening who recently spoke to YMCA gardeners:
Assess Your Garden for Sunlight
Will it still get at least six hours of sun a day as the path of the sun changes in the fall?
Harvest Your Warm Season Vegetables
If you planted a summer garden, harvest your vegetables and pull spent plants as early as possible to free up space.
Know Your Vegetable’s Tolerance for Cold Temperatures
Tender vegetables, warm season crops like tomatoes and pepper, are damaged by light frost (<32°F)
Semi-hardy vegetables (beets carrots, chard, lettuce) tolerate a light frost (28°F and 32°F)
Hardy vegetables (broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kale, radish, spinach) tolerate hard frosts (<28°F)
Killing frost (<10°F) kills even hardy vegetables.
Improve Germination Rates
Place brassica family seeds (swiss chard, pea, spinach, carrot and parsley) the “cold treatment” before planting. Place them in a damp paper towel in the refrigerator for a few days in advance.
Keep Seedlings Cool and Moist
Cover your seedlings with straw mulch or leaf mulch.
Happy fall gardening!