Fall Gardening Tips by Kelly

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Fall Gardening Tips

"When most gardeners are dealing with the remnants of their summer harvest and preparing the garden bed for winter, most vegetable growers are about to have their most productive growing season of the year: Fall," states University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup. The fall offers a second chance at growing cool-weather vegetables commonly planted in early spring.

Whether you decide to plant potatoes in a bag, carrots and radishes in a straw bale or lettuce in a patio pot, now is the time to start thinking about fall vegetables.

Popular leaf vegetables — spinach, lettuce, arugula, kale, bok choy and mustard greens — are not only very easy to grow in cool weather, but can be directly seeded into soil or garden planters. Root crops like radishes, turnips, carrots and beets have short crop times and can be planted by seed until early September. Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage should be planted as transplants in late summer and can be bought from garden centers.

Tips for beginner fall gardeners:

  • Plant the seed two times as deep as instructed on the seed package to ensure greater germination.
  • Season extenders made of plastic, glass and cloth can allow for produce at least two to three weeks later than unprotected crops.
  • The first frost date is Oct. 15. However, most cool-weather vegetables can endure a light frost and in fact can taste better.
  • Plant herbs like cilantro and parsley.

  • Plant separated garlic bulbs mid-September through mid-October, before the soil freezes for a bounty of garlic next summer. The fall weather helps garlic form roots and start sprouting before the cold treatment of winter is needed for proper development. The Extension's local foods educator, Bill Davison, feeds his family pesto made out of the garlic scapes during the summer months before his late summer harvest.
  • Plant cover crop. Cover crops can be very beneficial in managing garden weeds and building up organic matter in the soil. University of Illinois suggests selecting cover crops based on needs in your garden. For example, a legume cover crop such as Austrian peas or hairy vetch can fix nitrogen deficiencies, or plant grass cover crops such as winter wheat, grain rye or oats to scavenge leftover nutrients from the vegetable garden. Plants can be tilled before planting in spring.

Contact: Kelly Allsup, Extension unit educator, Horticulture-Livingston, McLean and Woodford Unit

(309) 663-8306, kallsup@illinois.edu