Summer is winding down, temperatures are tapering and our daylight hours are dwindling once again. Fortunately, with a few tips, you can extend your garden well into fall.
Starting seeds is lots of fun and many vegetables and herbs actually prefer the warmer soils and cooler temperatures of the fall garden compared to the chilly widely variable conditions of spring. Now is the perfect time to replant or even plant seeds for the first time. Check your seed packets for the days to harvest. If you’re 60 days or less, get them in the ground now! Lettuce, spinach, radishes, carrots, peas, Swiss chard, and more are great choices. And one of my favorites - cilantro! This herb for your Mexican dishes is happiest in the cooler temps of fall.
Garden Center Bargains
Garden centers are clearing out their stock now and massive bargains can be found. Add to your perennial collection and even plan and plant a brand new bed while scoring the best prices of the year. Prepare your soil well and water deeply and regularly until the ground freezes or the snow flies. Add 3 to 4 inches of mulch around your plants when you put them in. The mulch slows temperature fluctuation, helps retain moisture and makes your beds look great. With fall planting, your plants will be off to a strong start come spring!
Divide Your Plants
Fall is a great time to divide your plants to expand your collection or share with friends. Most perennials divide well. A shovel and a sharp spade will do the trick. YouTube and other online sources are great tools for specific information on the variety you’re dividing. As with the new plantings, divided plants need to be watered regularly as late into the season as possible.
Harvest, harvest, harvest
Keep on harvesting, freezing and canning to maximize the rewards from a season of hard work! Also, as we near October, it is time to pay attention to the forecast. Light frosts of 32 degrees will damage many plants, while a “killing frost” of 29 degrees will end the growing season for most. A good old sheet from the closet in addition to insulated row covers and cold frames are tools to consider if you want to gain a few more weeks form your garden. Ultimately though, for us in Iowa, nature will win out and put our gardens to sleep if only for a little while.
At the end of it all, likely in mid-October, it’s time to rejoice in your season of achievements and dream of seed catalogs and spring!
l Lisa Hinzman Howard has been a Linn County Master Gardener since 2011.