Organic farming guru Eliot Coleman, calls fall “the second spring.”
Even though fall seems far off, right now is the perfect time to plan
your fall garden, and August 1st is when you should start planting in
earnest. Many of the crops that we associate with spring - such as
lettuce, spinach, radishes, peas, and beets - can also be planted for
fall, and may even do better, since they won’t be facing the rising
temperatures of summer.
Thinking about the fall garden is a bit different than preparing for
spring. In the spring, gardeners are focused on how early they can
plant something outside safely. In the fall, the trick is counting
backwards to make sure you give a plant enough time to mature before
heavy frosts and much shorter days are upon us. The later you plant,
the more slowly plants grow due to decreased day length. A useful
reference point is the “first frost date.” If you’re here in Licking
County, our average first frost date is approximately October 10th. If
you’re elsewhere, consult
this handy interactive map.
You can also consider planting vegetables that will hang on into
winter, either because of their cold-hardiness or because you’ve
protected them with row cover, greenhouse plastic, or a cold frame. In
this case, your goal is to have a plant reach its maturity by the time
we’re receiving only 10 hours of daylight. Here, that’s November 14th.
Plants won’t really grow much after that, but if you can protect them,
especially from strong winds, you might have something green to harvest
all winter long. Favorite winter hardy greens include kale, spinach,
lettuce, arugula, mache, tatsoi, and collard greens. Some root crops,
such as carrots, rutabagas, and parsnips can simply be stored in the
soil, especially when given a nice layer of straw mulch as a buffer.
Dig them on a sunny winter day when it’s warmed up enough that the
ground isn’t frozen.