As we leave summer and enter the fall season, beginner and expert gardeners alike are planning their fall vegetable gardens. Whether you are growing vegetables in a pot in your apartment or refreshing your backyard garden, it is important to know that a fall vegetable garden needs to be managed differently than a spring garden.
The good news is that a well-prepared garden can ensure a bountiful harvest when the time comes, said Skip Richter, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulture agent. Richter, who also hosts Garden Success, on KAMU FM/HD-1, shares the top tips for a successful fall vegetable garden.
Sunlight for fall vegetables
One of the most important things for a vegetable garden is learning how much sunlight your plants need. Vegetable gardens should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight, unobstructed by shadows from taller objects nearby.
“Crops and plants grown for their roots and fruits should be planted in areas that receive the most sunlight,” he said. “If you have to plant something a little more into the shade, do it with your leafy greens, which can tolerate a little less sunlight.”
Healthy soil for a healthy garden
Soil quality is another important factor when planning for 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. “At that point, you’ve either prepared a good-quality soil for your plants or you haven’t.”
If you are unsure about the quality or health of your soil, then you may consider getting a soil test. Soil testing helps you understand the precise composition of your soil. Texans who wish to know more about their soil composition can order a soil test from AgriLife Extension.
One of the easiest ways to build healthier soil is by amending it with a store bought or do-it-yourself compost mix. Compost is comprised of organic matter that has decomposed into a soil-like substance.
“For a garden to thrive, organic matter in the soil is a necessity,” Richter said. “Compost helps sandy soils keep more water and nutrients, and it helps clay soils drain better and improves aeration among other benefits.”
If your soil has poor drainage, raised planting beds can help plants to thrive even during periods of excessive rainfall.
When to plant vegetables for fall
Fall gardeners can set the stage for a bountiful harvest by selecting the best vegetable varieties for their regions and planting them at the right time.
“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 Fall Vegetable Variety Selector gives detailed information to 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.
Knowing just when to plant vegetables, according to region, is important. View the planting guide for suggested planting dates in Texas at https://tx.ag/FallGardenGuide.
Tips for a successful fall harvest
- Plan for adequate sunlight.
- Give roots and fruits the most sun.
- Use leafy greens in sun or in slightly shadier garden areas.
- Amend your soil with compost.
- Choose regionally adapted plants.
- Visit your county AgriLife Extension office for more help.
- Check out the online Fall Vegetable Gardening Guide.