This post is by KS contributing writer Pam Farley from Brown Thumb Mama.
It’s dangerous to mention the word “garden” in the summertime! This one word causes people to start crowing about the giant heirloom tomatoes they’ve harvested and the exotic new varieties of watermelon they’re trying to cultivate.
That’s pretty intimidating for new gardeners, especially when you’re one of those folks who can barely get a seed to sprout. It seems like gardening people speak a foreign language–soil fertility, integrated pest management, compost and vermiculture…what the what?!?
And heaven forbid that you confess to having trouble with your garden. You’ll be overwhelmed with advice, information, data, suggestions, old wives’ tales, or worse. My poor green bean plants were the victims of bugs and “incorrect information overload” a few years ago. (photo source)
I’m going to let you in on a little secret that will make you an accomplished gardener–without any stress from the summertime gardeners looking over your shoulder.
It’s easy, your kids can help, and you’ll be thrilled with the result.
What’s the secret?
Yes, You Can Grow Veggies in the Fall
There are two basic categories of vegetables you can plant in your garden–warm season and cool season. Tomatoes, watermelons, and zucchini are examples of warm-season vegetables–they grow best during the long, hot days of summer.
Cool-season vegetables, or fall vegetables, prefer the shorter, cooler days in spring and fall. They ripen and are harvested in the winter–some can even stay in your garden through a freeze. Broccoli, carrots, and spinach are examples of cool-season vegetables.
Fall Vegetables are Easy to Grow
I know what you’re thinking: “If they’re so great, how come nobody brags about their broccoli harvest?” My theory is that by this time of year, the summer gardeners are burned out, tired of weeding, and don’t have the energy for a fall garden.
Consider fall vegetable gardening like an exclusive club–but don’t be intimidated! Cool-season vegetables are as easy to grow as tomatoes and zucchini. They like sun, water, and good soil like all the other plants in your garden.
What and How to Plant
Here are some tasty veggies you can plant now for a late fall/early winter harvest.
Start these from seed
These plants grow best when started from seed. Your local garden center or university extension program can tell you which varieties grow best in your area.
The carrot and radish seeds are really tiny, so I recommend using homemade seed tape to ensure your plants are spaced correctly as they grow.
Start these as seedlings
Buy these as seedlings (or “baby plants,” as my kids call them) from your local garden center. If it’s still blazing hot in your area (US Southeast/Gulf Coast, for example) wait until September to plant these.
- Brussels sprouts
The seedlings will look small when you buy them, but they’ll need lots of room to grow. Plant them at least a foot apart. They’ll be ready to harvest 50-60 days after planting.
Cabbage worms (also called cabbage loopers) like to eat these four veggies. The best, natural way to keep them from eating your crop is to protect the plants with a fine screen or netting. I cover my seedlings with an inexpensive, fine-mesh basket right after planting. The containers look a little silly in the garden, but the results are worth it.
Grow a Fall Garden with Your Kids
As the weather cools off and the pressures from school heat up, kids will enjoy relaxing and spending time in the garden. Reluctant eaters just might change their minds about veggies if they grow their own! It also helps them contribute to the family and be involved with healthy eating.
Here are some kid veggie favorites from the lists above:
- Radishes will sprout in 3-5 days, and are ready to harvest in about 25 days. They aren’t spicy if you pick them right away.
- Carrots are fun for everyone to eat, and there are lots of different shapes and colors–even purple. They’re slow to germinate, so it’s a good way for kids (and moms!) to practice patience.
- Peas will sprout in about 10 days, and are 100% better fresh than canned or frozen. My kids eat snow peas straight off the vine.
- Brussels sprouts are amazing to grow. The plant can reach 2-3 feet tall, and the brussels sprouts themselves look like little cabbages growing along the stem of the plant.
Are you and your kids ready to start bragging about your gardening accomplishments? You can join the exclusive club of Fall Gardeners. If you’d like more detailed information about starting a garden, check out the KS organic gardening series from the archives.
What fall vegetables are you growing, or would like to try?
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