When people think about farming and gardening, most of the time they think about the spring and summer months. The fall time of year is just as important for growing a garden especially with the prices of items in the grocery store starting to climb.
One reason people don’t plant a fall garden is simply because there is so much going on in most people’s lives during that time of year. Major holidays are around the corner, children are getting ready to go back to school, and your mind is not on growing things as much as it was earlier in the year.
Even with a ramped up schedule it is still very rewarding to grow a fall garden. Today we’ll go over a few things that will help you plan your fall garden that will help you be successful this year.
It’s important to know what temperatures are harmful to what plants and since we are talking about a fall garden we need to address the colder temps that can happen during this time of year.
When the air temperature is below 36°F a frost can occur. There are other factors that go into making a frost such as ground temperatures and humidity but you want to watch the air temperature so you can protect your crops.
A light freeze can happen when the air temperature reaches between 29°F and 32°F. Young and tender plants are susceptible to light freezes and can be killed in these conditions. If you suspect a light freeze is on the way you may want to cover your plants to protect them.
Air temperatures that fall between 25°F and 28°F help produce hard freeze conditions. A hard freeze will kill most summer vegetables in the garden.
Any temperature below 25°F will produce a killing frost and all your plants will be damaged or killed.
When To Plant
The best time to plant for the fall will be based on when the first frost date is for your zone as well as the days to maturity for your crop. Here, we are in zone 8 and our first frost date is November 20th. It is also best to allow a few days as “cushion” days between maturity and the first frost.
To find your first frost date you can visit www.almanac.com/gardening/frostdates and input your zip code.
Let’s say we wanted to grow another crop of Honey Select Sweet Corn. This variety of corn reaches maturity in 80 days. We would take our first frost date of November 20th and subtract our 80 growth days. That will give us the date of September 1st. But we also want to have a few of those cushion days to have time to harvest before the frost so we will take off 10 more days. That gives us the date of August 22nd as our sowing date for our corn.
If we wanted to plant some Lola Banana Peppers, which have a 70 day maturity, we would want to add 20 cushion days to the equation. Peppers also take an additional 6 weeks to start indoors so those 42 days would be added on as well. All these days added together get you 132 day. We take 132 day from November 20th and get July 8th.
Gentry Squash is a summer squash that takes 45 days to get to maturity. As some of you know, squash can linger out past their projected maturity dates so we will give them an extra 20 days as our cushion days. That gives us 65 days from November 20th meaning we would need to plant our squash on September 18th.
Jade Bush Beans have 55 days to maturity and you need to add 15 cushion days. Add those together for a total of 70 days. Count that back from the November 20th first frost date and you have a planting day of September 11th.
Cucumbers do well in the fall too and we plan on planting Max Pack Cucumbers. They have 55 days to maturity and we’ll add 20 cushion days for a total of 75 days. That means we will plant them September 6th.
The last example is Sa Dandy Cream Pea. They have 65 days to maturity plus we’ll add 15 cushion days for a total of 80 days from November 20th. We’ll want to plant these on September 1st.
Example of Zone Difference
If you are a gardener in zone 7 you will need to plant 2 weeks earlier than the dates we have here. However, if you are in zone 9, you can wait 2 weeks more than we can.
No matter your zone, it is easy to do the math and get a fall garden going. It is worth the time and effort to add more to your stockpile and have food growing throughout more of the year.