As planting time for fall vegetables begins, it’s important to know that a fall vegetable garden will need to be managed somewhat differently than a spring garden. The good news is, a well-prepared garden can ensure a bountiful harvest when the time comes, said Skip Richter, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulture agent and host of Garden Success, KAMU FM/HD-1. Richter shares the top tips for a successful fall vegetable garden.
Sunlight for fall vegetables
Most important is planning for adequate sunlight, he said. Vegetable garden spaces should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight, unobstructed by shadows from taller objects nearby.
“Roots and fruits should be planted in areas that receive the most sunlight,” he said. “If you have to push something a little more into the shade, do it with your leafy greens, as they can tolerate a little less sunlight.”
Soil is key
Soil quality is the second determining factor in a strong vegetable garden, Richter said.
“By the time you put your first plant in the ground, you’re already 75% of the way toward success or failure,” he said, “because you’ve either prepared a good-quality soil or you haven’t.”
One of the easiest ways to build healthier soil is by amending it with compost, which is comprised of organic matter that has decomposed into a soil-like substance.
“Organic matter is necessary in the soil for a garden to thrive,” Richter said. “Compost helps sandy soils keep more water, and it helps clay soils drain better among other benefits.”
If drainage is poor, raised planting beds can help plants to thrive even during periods of excessive rainfall. Texans who wish to know more about their soil composition can order a soil test from AgriLife Extension.
Choose the right vegetables for fall
Finally, Richter said, fall gardeners can set the stage for a bountiful harvest by selecting the best plants for their regions.
“Here in Texas our fall season can be short between the blazing heat of summer and first frost of winter,” he said. “So, we want things that harvest quickly, and you want to select crops that are well-adapted to your area.”
AgriLife Extension’s web-based Fall Vegetable Gardening Guide gives more detailed information and can help choose the best species for any Texas region. Richter also recommended reaching out to county AgriLife Extension offices for more assistance with fall gardening.
Tips for a successful fall harvest
- Plan for adequate sunlight.
- Give roots and fruits the most sun.
- Consider moving leafy greens into slightly shadier garden areas.
- Amend your soil with compost.
- Choose regionally native or adapted plants.
- Visit your county extension office for more help.
- Check out the online Fall Vegetable Gardening Guide.