Now is the time to Prepare for an Extended Growing Season
Before planting fall and winter seeds or transplants, prepare the soil to nurture new growth. Add organic matter and cover soil with a one-inch layer of compost to help restore nutrients depleted by this year’s vegetable crop. Adding compost helps retain moisture and keep seedlings cool in the late summer. Use floating row covers for new seeds and transplants. When selecting plants to grow, be sure to look for early maturing varieties that require a shorter time to harvest. Keep in mind that fall growth is about two weeks slower due to shorter days and cooler nights.
Here is a planting guide to help you select vegetable types that tend to do well in the fall. These include cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts and bok choi); leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, arugula, Asian greens, mustard and cilantro); and root crops (beets, carrots, turnips; parsnips and rutabagas). When planting in the fall, take into account the “Short Day Factor” and modify your seed-starting date by adding an additional 14 days to the number of days until seeds germinate and plants reach maturity (listed on the seed packet), counting back from the first frost date for your area. Plant seeds slightly deeper than in the spring to prevent seeds from drying out. Learn more about fall vegetable gardening.
Consider extending your growing season by planning for a “year round” garden. This VCE article, Season Extenders, has tips for growing vegetables throughout the winter months, what to grow, and how to build cold-frames, and other tips on how to protect your harvest in freezing temperatures.
Replenish your garden soils by planting a cover crop, such as winter rye, wheat or oats, hairy vetch, peas or clover. A listing of various fall cover crops and planting schedules is available here. These crops help keep the soil loose, reduce erosion, and add valuable nutrients, including nitrogen, to the soil during the winter. Cover crops are easy to plant and require little maintenance until spring. Lightly mulch broadcast seeds with a thin layer of straw. MGNV also has a two part factsheet on Tried & True Cover Crops in Best Bets: Plants for Particular Uses.