It’s nearly the first week of September and it’s time to think about fall in the garden.  Are your green bean leaves yellowing and your cucumbers dying back?  If so, clear them out to make room for your fall crops!  It is best not to wait past the first couple of weeks of September, however, as you’re racing against thedwindling daylight hours.  After mid-December, daylight drops below 10 hours a day and plant growth stops until late-January.  You want to time fall crops to mature before this happens, so get your seeds and plants in the ground ASAP!

Fall plant starts growing at a partner’s farm 

  • Sow outdoors: arugula, Asian greens, beets, carrots, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, radish, spinach, turnips
  • Transplant: broccoli, cabbage,  cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, parsley, swiss chard, pac choi

While you are clearing out the old and putting in the new, don’t forget to save room for garlic!  This can be a strange concept for beginning gardeners, but garlic is traditionally planted in October in our neck of the woods.

A zipper spider in a participant’s garden, a sure sign of fall

Planting your brassica transplants deep – bury everything up to where the bottom leaf comes out – to help your plants form hardy stalks to brave the cold and wet weather. If your transplants are a bit leggy, planting deep will help keep the stalk from resting on the soil surface. In cold, wet conditions like we often see in late fall and winter are prime conditions for rotting so keeping plant stalks off the ground is essential for plant health and longevity. 

Fall transplants divided up and heading out to their new garden home

Pest pressure is still high in East TN until the cold really settles in. A lot of the fall plants and seeds we give away are in the brassica family. These plants are susceptible to damage from cabbage moths and harlequin beetles among others. To keep your plants healthy and happy it is important to either keep them under row cover so the bugs can’t get to them or to spray them with an organic insecticide such as Monterey Garden Insect Spray that we pass out to all our gardeners. 

Whether or not you are planning to plant a fall garden, now is the time to consider planting your garden in cover crops.  We recommend that planting cover crops to all of our gardeners.  Cover crops planted in the fall can help retain nutrients so they don’t wash away with winter rains, fix nitrogen to reduce spring fertilizer needs, break up compaction, and feed a diversity of soil microbe life that fights pests and disease and will help feed your plants. We encourage gardeners to plant at least 50% of their garden into cover crops over the winter.  We passed out a mix of Winter Rye, Winter Wheat, Crimson Clover and Daikon Radish to our participants in East TN just last night for September sowing.

Happy Fall Gardening!