Fall Gardening with
Cold Weather Crops
If you’ve enjoyed the success of
having a spring and summer vegetable garden this year and thought
the planting season was over — think
again! Fall is a great time to plant
cold crops. You’ve already done the
work of prepping your garden beds
for spring and summer, so why not
capitalize on that effort with some
nutritious veggies this autumn season?
The most common question from
many prospective fall gardeners is:
“What can I grow?” Most garden
greens like arugula, kale, collard
greens, spinach, swiss chard and
other more exotic greens like mache
and radicchio thrive in the cool
temperatures of autumnal gardens.
There are a great variety of vegetable crops to work with including
beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts
cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery,
cilantro, garlic, leeks, onions, potatoes, radishes, scallions, shallots
and turnips. That’s quite a list! Of
course, the length of growing season will vary among these.
So, when is the best time to
start? Get on your gardening gloves,
because the best time is now! Many
fall garden plants get a helpful starting push from the last days of summer heat. To determine the appropriate growing season for fall plants,
you’ll need to find out when you can
expect the first killing frost in your
is temperatures of about
To find your
average first fall frost date, search by
state in the tables provided by the
National Climatic Data Center. Count
back 12 to 14 weeks from your average first fall frost date to start seeds
for the crops.
Most autumnal garden plants can
be started from seed, but some fare
better as transplants, particularly
broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage,
cauliflower and kale. The peak of
summer is not the best time to start
seedlings of anything, so start these
from seed indoors where germination conditions are more favorable
and then expose them to sunlight
a couple of hours each day before
transplanting when they’re about
three weeks old.
As your spring-planted crops die
off, replace them with summersown vegetables to keep your
garden productive into fall and even
winter! If you have time, enrich the
soil with compost or aged manure
such as ZooPoopyDoo, to replenish micronutrients and give the
plants a strong start. One of the
most important factors affecting
the success and productivity of fall
gardens is keeping the soil moist.
Short periods of drought stress can
No time for a Fall Garden?
Consider planting a cover crop for the winter. A cover crop is a specific
plant grown for the protection and enrichment of the soil. Examples include winter rye, winter wheat, red clover and hairy vetch. Cover crops
will add nutrients to the soil and reduce fertilizing time, enhancing soil
health, preventing erosion and improving your yields! When spring
arrives, till in the cover crops a couple weeks prior to planting and start
your garden in richer soil! If you don’t plant cover crops, be sure to add
organic matter like ZooPoopyDoo in the spring before planting. ZooPoopyDoo will be available for purchase in April 2017. See you then!
18 • Louisville Zoo Trunkline • Fall 2016
significantly affect the growth of fall
crops, especially for slow-growing
root crops like beets and carrots.
Some simple solutions include:
• Install soaker hoses before you
set out plants or sow seeds.
• Install shade cloth(s) above the
bed with stakes or hoops to prevent excessive soil drying.
• Mulching with fresh grass clippings or composted leaves to
retain soil moisture while also
A secret tool that many veteran
gardeners utilize when mulching is to place newspaper down
between plants and mulch on top.
The newspaper will block light to
prevent weed growth, keep the soil
cool and moist, and attract earthworms as it breaks down. Earthworms help increase the amount of
air and water that is absorbed into
the soil. They break down organic
matter into compounds that plants
can use. What a great green way to
make use of all those old newspapers too!
Now that you know how, get
out and enjoy those cool temperatures with some autumn gardening.