How do you start a fall vegetable garden? There is much for new and amateur gardeners to learn about vegetable gardening. With the abundance of resources and conflicting opinions, it can be a little overwhelming for a novice.
If you have been dabbling with the notion of growing your own garden, or if you still consider yourself a beginner, this article will help you get a jump start on planning your fall vegetable garden.
Cool season crops are typically root vegetables and salad greens. There is an ideal period of 5-6 weeks for starting your fall vegetable garden before the first frost date. In the Chester County area, the first frost date is estimated to range from October 21-October 31. For a local planting schedule, refer to this guide from the Penn State Cooperative Extension.
After selecting your garden site, and the approach you would like to use (in-ground, raised-bed, vertical or container), select the types of vegetables you would like to try out this season.
We suggest that you only choose a few vegetables for your first garden. If you plant your seeds in August, vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, and kale will grow well during the cooler summer months and fall.
Make a spreadsheet to record the needs for each—such as spacing, sunlight exposure, water levels, and additional equipment. This will be a handy item to take with you to the nursery if you would like some assistance. Leave a couple of columns open to make notes regarding your purchases or advice from the Woodlawn garden center staff. If you haven’t started a garden journal yet, let this be your first piece as it will likely be even more useful to you next season.
If this is your very first spin around the gardening dance-floor, basic gardening tools will be a necessary purchase. Doug Jimerson, a Veteran gardener and garden editor at Better Homes & Gardens, recommends that you invest in stainless steel tools to get the most from your purchase.
You can find a variety of gardening tools and supplies at our Malvern, PA garden center. Just walk past the register and you’ll find shovels, rakes, gloves, and everything else you’ll need to get started.
Use the information noted on your spreadsheet to develop a spatial design for your fall garden. If you prefer, there are many predesigned garden plans available online for personal use. Better Homes & Gardens has an entire collection of plans available for download; this may help to take some of the edge off of the first-attempt jitters.
Preparing Your Soil
If you intend to plant an in-ground (versus a raised bed or container) collect several samples from potential garden sites in your yard and take them to a local cooperative extension of a full service garden center for testing. The results will give you insight on the properties of the soil you will be working with. The report will likely recommend some soil amendments to improve the quality of your soil.
Remove any debris within the garden site, either from your previous seasonal attempt or the weeds and rubble of a new site. If you are planting with a raised garden bed, you will likely need to make a soil mixture to fill the garden bed in, addition to tidying the topsoil of the garden site. A till will be required for this step regardless of the approach you have selected.
To learn about preparing the soil for an in-ground garden bed, refer to this video. For a comprehensive guide on raised garden beds, refer to this video. Additionally, if you will be using a raised garden bed, it is important to remember to incorporate an irrigation system of some kind. For suggestions, refer to this plan.
It’s time to get those green thumbs dirty. Refer to your design plan and the specifications for each of the selected seedlings. It is also recommended that you refer to this video for a brief overview of the actual planting process. Create a maintenance log to add to your journal to track rainfall and watering care. You may find it helpful to take pictures and possibly join a blogging community for gardeners to get you through any troubleshooting issues, such as garden pests.
Remember that patience for is vital for gardeners. It will take time to see results and there may be some occasions when the only results you see are failed experiments. Even avid gardeners have unsuccessful trials. That’s why it helps to keep a journal and swap stories with other gardeners.
Since everything there is to know about gardening cannot possibly be crammed into one post, it may be helpful to stock up on additional tips before the fall planting-season arrives. There are many books and websites, which can be used to help plan for the upcoming season. If you prefer a more interactive and structured approach, check out the gardening classes on craftsy.com.
It is also important to remember that the best resources can be found at your local nursery. The insight of an experienced and local gardener is most valuable as they are better able to tailor the answers to the environment you will be dealing with.
The staff at Woodlawn’s garden center is always eager to answer any questions you may have. Stop by our Malvern or Chadds Ford location and let us help you get your fall garden started!
- Vegetable Gardening: Recommendations for Home
- Gardeners in Pennsylvania
- How to plant a Vegetable Garden in Pennsylvania
- Benefits of Raised Garden Beds
Photo courtesy of Flickr