imgres-2We often associate the fall with harvesting bountiful crops and reaping the benefits of summer. However, fall is a wonderful time to continue gardening. There is an abundance of different crops that thrive in cooler weather and fall gardening prepares you for a prosperous spring and summer. Here are 5 tips for planting and maintaining a garden during the fall.

1.)  Choose crops that are suitable for autumn

Leafy greens and root vegetables are the favored crops for fall harvest.  Vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, chard, arugula, beets, carrots, turnips, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, and peas will prosper in cooler fall temperatures and shorter days. In many regions, crops can survive a second harvest in spring. Plant these crops around late September when the temperature has cooled. In regions with mild winters, you can continue to grow favorites such as tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and cucumbers.

Use the fall to experiment with new crops. The fall is a perfect time to grow crops that might be foreign to you such as Chinese cabbage, arugula, or rutabaga. Open-pollinated varieties of leafy greens tend to work better than hybrids in home gardens. Allow these plants to mature so you can collect seeds to use for future crops.

2.)  Soil and mulch

Fall gardening is an excellent opportunity to manage soil fertility and control weeds. The leaves on fall crops will often provide shade to shield out weeds and fall crops cycle nutrients back into the soil to prevent rot. Enrich the soil with compost or aged manure to replenish micronutrients to give the plants the strongest start possible. Use space in the garden where snap beans or peas used to reside to grow plants that need lots of water such as spinach or cabbage. They will “mop up” excess nitrogen left from these crops.

Mulch will be your best friend during fall gardening season. Start with fresh grass clippings, spoiled hay, or almost-rotted leaves and place it over sheets of newspaper between plants. Newspaper blocks light (which helps keep weeds out) and keeps the soil moist. The best coverage will come from laying down 2 layers of mulch and wetting it thoroughly before planting your seedlings. Be aware of snails and other mollusks as they can hide out in organic mulch and chew holes in the leaves.

3.)  Keep the plants watered and well fed

Watering needs to be stressed during the fall season. Even tiny periods of drought can stress fall crops and stunt their growth. Your best bet will be installing a soaker hose before planting or sowing seeds. Lay the hose in a variety of patterns and experiment with finding the most coverage. If the hose does not stay in place, use short stakes or wire staples to hold it in place. Simple shade made out of boards can do a great job of shielding the germination from drying sunshine and you can shade seeded soil with cloth held by stakes and hoops.

Organibliss neem spray can also help plants thrive and increase their yield. It is all-organic and contains bionutrients known as limonoids and terpenoids that contribute to a plant’s ability to survive extreme conditions.

4.)  Protect your plants

Fall seedlings attract a laundry list of pests including armyworms, grasshoppers, and cabbage worms. Protect your plants by covering the seedlings with row covers as soon as they are planted. Use a “summer-weight” insect barrier row cover that retains very little heat or you can construct your own by pinning two pieces of tulle (a light, thin type of cloth that is like a net) into a long, wide shroud. Use stakes or hoops to hold the covers and raise it as the plants grow.