A successful spring gardening doesn’t start at spring, it starts at fall. For first time doing fall gardeners, you’re in for a treat. If you are in need of some fall gardening tips to ensure a successful spring harvest, then read on!
Fall Gardening Tips For Great Success in Spring
By Michelle Pugle
As the air begins to blow colder, the leaves dance to the ground, and darkness lingers into the early mornings, I have a tendency to dream of spring gardening:
Melting snow, sprouting plants, longer days…
I used to garden for just a few prime months of the year. In my Eastern Canadian zone, these months fell roughly between May and August. Each fall and winter I’d plan that year’s garden layout, including spacing and what types of vegetables and herbs I’d grow. Come spring, everyone knew (and admittedly this is still very much the case) to expect I’d be entirely unreachable outside the office. Summer, let’s face it, was and still is, little different. As every experienced gardener knows, there’s a lot more that goes into growing food than just planting seeds or seedlings.
For instance, climate can be harsh. Here, a few hours behind on watering can mean completely sun – scorched crops. On the other side of the spectrum, rain rips through the gardens and downpours to the point of even snapping stems. Both of these extremes can occur within the same afternoon. The garden needs consistent care and protection, especially throughout spring and summer.
What about fall though? What I was once too-excited-for-spring-gardening-to-notice is this:
Gardening for the purpose of growing food is not limited to a few months of hard work – it really is a year-round activity. Since fully utilizing late August, September and October, I’ve been able to boost my household’s overall bounty considerably.
As I type, lavender blooms, green tomatoes hang, sweet potato sprawls, and the last of his year’s lemon cucumbers reveal themselves. The green onions, cat mint and Thai basil, Greek oregano and peppermint are all still growing fairly strong.
Mini Green Tomato
I’ve learned fall is about so much more than the harvests we’ve come to characterize it by. It is, as every season should be considered, another opportunity in an ever-continuing cycle of life.
So these days, instead of closing my patio doors and kissing the soil goodbye until spring, I’m still digging in, getting dirty and feeling fantastic that I am able, with such a limited city space, to grow a considerable amount of food for my family.
Do you want to grow fresh food for your family too? You can start now! Here’s what I’m up to today in the outdoor gardens:
1. Making space
We all make mistakes. Maybe you planted something last year that just didn’t really work out. Maybe you found out about a new strain of vegetable you desperately want to try, but have already run out of viable soil or container-gardening space. Maybe, just maybe, you’ve decided to re-haul your whole approach before next spring. You can start fresh now – no need to wait until spring. In fact, it’s better for plants to be transplanted or re-homed in fall months compared with the hotter, less-forgiving summer ones.
Today, I’m taking out a few of my “mistakes”: decorative bushes ambitiously placed too close together in a small, food-growing-garden and non-edible flowers that are taking prime real estate for growing food next year. You see, last year I somewhat regretfully decided to add more color to the very small garden spaces available to me and my family. While the bursts of reds, pinks and oranges throughout the summer were certainly lovely, I couldn’t help thinking of more productive crops I should have went with instead. The flower and bush varieties I chose weren’t optimal: they didn’t attract pollinators like the cat mint and lemon cucumber, both of which have benefits to my family beyond aesthetics. I use dried cat mint decoratively throughout the house. It smells amazing. We eat lemon cucumbers. Don’t get me wrong: bushes and flowers are awesome, but not all of them provide benefits beyond aesthetic charm. When your goal is eventual self-sufficiency and sustainable lifestyle – and space is limited – aesthetics have to come second.
2. Filling space
You can now use that free space to plant edibles that will sprout as the snow melts. Last year was my first year outdoor planting in fall for spring harvest. Before that, it was strictly container gardening on cement apartment balcony. While there are a lot of similarities between the two styles of gardening, fall gardening isn’t really one of them.
image via pikelanegardens
The best crop in my soil: garlic. Last fall, I planted over a dozen little garlic bulbs that were gifted to me from a friend. Each and every single one provided delicious garlic greens for several weeks. I used those garlic greens to freshen up our first spring meals and add garden-fresh nutritional value. Today, I’ll be planting more of those little bulbs. I also tried greens: spinach, lettuces and kale. Unfortunately, I was only able to get very small sprouts before the spring rains destroyed them. I’ll start those crops indoors this year as I’ve done in the past and transplant in the spring instead.
3. Taking pictures
image via sourceenterprises
I have never really been one for pictures. I like being in the moment and experiencing my garden (and life in general) first-hand, not through a camera lens. However, one of the best gardening tips I’ve probably ever received involves a camera.
Over the winter months, it’s so easy for me to forget what the full-grown garden really looks like. So in spring, when it’s just bare soil in front of me mostly, I tend to plant seeds way too close together. I forget how big each little seed can eventually become. The photos of growth over seasons help gardeners to better plan each year. Ideally, you do have plants that will come back each year, making planning less and less over time. However, I’m trying to learn how to grow all kinds of resourceful ingredients, and I don’t have a ton of space. Thus, my gardens have a mix of perennials and new trial crops each year. I use this pictures to help plan the new crops into the existing garden design.
Go outside right now and start snapping pictures of your current garden area(s). These photos are now your initial guide to planting success next year.
Fall gardening has quickly become a favorite pastime. Honestly, I might even like it more than spring gardening.
In need of more fall gardening tips? Then watch this quick video from UMDHGIC:
What do you think of these fall gardening tips? Are you going to give them a try? Let me know below in the comments!
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