My name is Pat Ives and I am a garden specialist with Revival Roots. I have over a decade of experience growing vegetables in the garden, nursery, and farm.
I hear it often when I tell people I’m a vegetable gardener; “I tried planting a garden this summer but then everything just died!” Does this sound like you? Well I’d encourage you to take another shot at growing your own delicious vegetables as we move into the fall season. Here are a couple reasons why I think starting a vegetable garden in the fall is a great idea for new growers!
Scorching summer temperatures are just as stressful for plants as they can be for humans. Many of the crops that are otherwise easy to grow in the garden can really struggle when the temperatures soar; lettuces can turn bitter, greens like spinach and arugula will bolt (going to seed early), and fruiting crops like tomatoes and peppers can even drop flowers and young fruit. The quality and quantity of your harvests can really take a hit in the heat.
As the days get shorter and sweater weather comes around you can almost hear your vegetable sighing in relief. Leafy greens and lettuces really shine in the cool weather. The taste and yield of these popular crops are really at their peak in the fall. If salads feature heavily in your kitchen do yourself a favor and get to planting! Many of these greens mature fairly quickly as well so there’s still plenty of time to get them in the ground.
Water stress in the garden goes hand in hand with heat stress. Keeping the garden watered in the heat of summer can seem impossible at times. Plants deal with heat stress by increasing transpiration to cool themselves. This draws water from the soil through the roots and up into the leaves where it evaporates. At the same time water evaporates from the surface of the soil which compounds the drying effect.
Water stressed plants don’t grow very well and can very easily succumb to wilting. Summer is a busy time and it can be very easy to forget to water your plants. A relatively short period of your garden drying out can wipe out months of hard work!
In the fall however, these drying influences are moderated. The sun is less intense, temperatures fall, and often precipitation increases. If you get busy and forget to water your garden there is a much more forgiving buffer in the cooler months.
The summer garden is full of challenges and even the most experienced growers will experience crop failures. A new pest or disease appears, the variety you chose didn’t grow well, the weeds got ahead of you… the list goes on and on. These setbacks can be frustrating, but when fall rolls around you get to hit the reset button. There is something satisfying about pulling out a crop that was making you tear your hair out for months and sending it to the compost pile! Amending the soil and planting fall crops is a wonderful way to salvage a rough growing season.
So if you had grand ambitions this spring and things didn’t quite go as planned, consider giving it another go for the fall. Your plants will be less stressed, you’ll get fewer sunburns, and your plate will be filled with some of the tastiest varieties that the garden can offer.