The Edible Backyard’s 2017 Fall Garden Diary

Wait! Don’t put away your gardening gloves yet…

Year round gardening isn’t just possible in the tropics, it’s possible anywhere. The end of summer is the time for planting round two of your fall and winter vegetable garden.

Let me start with a status update on my garden in mid-October, and how I got it there. I’ll also recommend some things you can do to extend your growing season and prepare for the winter. The Edible Backyard also underwent an expansion and we created some more composting options.

Depending on the season, we always have a variety of fresh herbs. Several are perennial and are available most of the year. Oregano can become a massive plant, so I cut it back and separate it when needed. I have some in the garden, some in the front yard, and give it away.

Perennial Oregano
Perennial Oregano

We also have parsley most of the year. During the heat of the summer, I may lose a parsley plant or two. If I cut them back, they usually come back in cooler weather. A huge rosemary bush also grows protected on the southeast corner of our house next to the brick, which radiates heat.

In the early spring, I start my herb seeds under indoor grow lights about 4-6 weeks before the last frost date. Some love cooler temperatures and are put out in the garden before the last frost date. Herbs like basil are planted when there’s no danger of frost. We plant what we love and frequently use in cooking. Along with the pictured herbs, I grow basil, sage, dill, and tarragon. We really missed not having cilantro and chives this year, so I definitely won’t forget it next year.

Italian Parsley
Italian Parsley

Starting seeds under indoor grow lights has definitely saved me a ton of money. I also use mini greenhouse tunnels to get a head start in the spring, protect plants from insects, and provide a frost free environment in the late fall and winter. Look for a post coming soon on how to make your grow light system and mini greenhouse tunnels on the cheap.

To find out which planting zone you live in by zip code visit the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

Get your First and Last Frost Dates here.

Through a lot of trial an error, I grow what I love. I also evaluate what produce I spend the most money on in the grocery store, and what gives me the most value in my available growing space.

Salad lettuces and other leafy greens are grown year round in The Edible Back Yard. I simply must have several lettuces, arugula, spinach, kale, Swiss Chard, and collards.

Collard greens
Collard greens

You can see the white hoops crossing both garden beds. These support either a light cloth row cover in the summer or greenhouse plastic in winter.

I start the kale and collard seeds under indoor grow lights.

Collards, a lovely cooked southern green that’s a staple in my region are a fall must have. Start the seeds indoors 14-16 weeks before the first fall frost. Transplant to the garden 8-10 weeks before frost date.

Kale is one of my favorites for smoothies and tons of recipes. For a cool weather crop, start the seeds indoors 12-14 weeks before your first frost date, then transplant to the garden 8-10 weeks before.

 

Lettuce, spinach, Swiss Chard, and kale

lettuce, spinach, Swiss Chard, and kale

You can’t grow too much lettuce or other greens if you’re a veggie lover like me…

Greens are easy to succession plant so the harvest is staggered throughout the year as long as you have some protective cover or cold frame. They appreciate a little shade during the hottest part of the summer and don’t mind being tucked near taller plants that protect them.

Lettuce, spinach and Swiss Chard can be direct sown in the garden bed up to 4-6 weeks prior to your first fall frost. Use a mini hoop greenhouse cover to extend and protect your plants after frost.

I also love cooking with leeks, so I start seeds indoors twice a year. They take a long time to mature. For the fall crop, I start the seeds indoors 3-4 weeks before my last spring frost, transplant them to the garden in late May, and start using the mature plants for cooking in November and December. This year I have a smaller crop because of some sneaky rabbits!

Fall Leeks
Fall Leeks

Several of my summer vegetables are still going strong because our October weather has been mild. I could easily throw a light weight row cover over them if the temperature gets too low.

This year I chose Japanese eggplant. It grows really well in North Carolina, and I love the smaller size. I use it to make my Spicy Eggplant Marinara and dips like Baba Ganoush. I’ll post the planting instructions in my spring update.

Japanese Eggplant
Japanese Eggplant

The eggplant and peppers were originally started indoors from seeds, then transplanted to the garden. As with any crop, some years you have massive production and sometimes it doesn’t seem worth your effort. Keeping my dogs plus the crop munching insects and rabbits out of the garden is a full time job. My grandson and I make a game of looking for rabbits with a flash light when he has a sleepover.

You can strengthen the odds in favor of a bumper crop by following a schedule of companion planting with other compatible vegetables and rotating the crops in your planting beds. More on that later.

Peppers
Peppers

Many old time gardeners are surprised that I plant several crop batches of bush green beans. They’re fast growing and can be direct sown in the garden bed after all threat of frost in the spring. I like to stagger each crop by planting half the bed and then waiting 2-3 weeks to plant the other half. They’re so tender, my grandson picks them right off the plant and eats them! The last batch was planted for fall at the end of August and early September for my time zone.

Bush Green Beans
Bush Green Beans

Garden maintenance tasks are much easier in the fall when the weather isn’t as hot. Raised garden beds created with the Lasagna method are about as easy as it gets. This method does not require any tilling or turning of the soil. There’s also very little weeding. In between seasons I just add some compost and leaf mulch to the top of each bed.

This fall we built two more 4′ X 8′ raised beds and added two new bins for composting shredded leaves and garden plants. October is also the time to plant garlic bulbs in my planting zone. They should be planted around the time of your first frost date.

Ready to build some epic, organic soil for your garden? Check out this post:

Lasagna Gardening: The Lazy Gardener’s Secret

I’ve created a garden planner PDF with the information you need to easily create your own delicious year round garden. My free planner includes finding your planting zone, first and last frost dates for your specific location, a planting time table for over 30 vegetables and herbs, and a garden planner you can print.

Just enter your first name and email below to receive your free copy.

Gardening in the rain
Gardening in the rain!

Happy Gardening!

~Haynes