Fall Gardens

In about two weeks I plan to start putting in our fall gardens. I love gardening in the fall. Unlike the wild and unruly summer, nature slows down in the fall. There are few weeds and pests. There’s rarely a need to irrigate. And of course the foods of fall are delicious.

We devote four gardens to fall crops (not including the sweet potato garden, which we planted a couple of months ago). In one we’ll plant radishes, turnips, beets, spinach and Swiss chard. In the second one we’llΒ plant Romaine lettuce, radicchio, arugula and Asian greens (bok choy, Tokyo bekana, mizuna, maruba santoh, komatsuna, tatsoi and Chinese cabbage). We’ll plant broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and mustard greens in the third garden. The fourth fall garden will be all kale and collards.

I did a poor job with the starts this summer, so we’re going to have to buy more than I’d like. Our cabbage seedlings look fine but the rest are iffy. Oh well. Do better next year.

We have 22 gardens in total, of which about 1/3 are resting with a cover crop at any given time. They amount to about 2 acres.

I use a tractor to till and prep the soil, and to form the beds for planting. Because the rows have to be far enough apart to allow a tractor to drive over them, a lot of otherwise usable space is wasted. And of course tilling pulverizes and compacts the soil.

If I was starting over again I would seriously consider raising our vegetables entirely in permanent no-till raised beds. We have a bunch of small raised beds now (about 240 square feet total) and they are extremely productive and easy to tend. In the spring, for example, when I’m fretting over wet soil and wondering when I’ll be able to work and plant the gardens with the tractor, I just take a garden rake and smooth out the rich soil in the raised beds, sprinkle lettuce seeds in them, rake it again, and I’m done. A few weeks later we have abundant and delicious lettuce mix.

This winter I’m going to carefully re-evaluate everything we do. We’re planning to add a 30 x 72 hoop house (essentially an unheated green house) over the winter. It’s possible that with that in place and perhaps some more raised beds, I can transition us to no-till. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to getting the fall crops in the ground.

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13 comments on “Fall Gardens

  1. I want to raid your gardens Bill! ❀
    Diana xo

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  2. shoreacres says:

    Some fall plantings are starting — or have even been completed — here. We’re down to purple hulls, eggplant, and okra for the time being. The hundred degree temperatures have done in everything else. Since “my” farmers are three hours north, when they come to market they still have summer squash, zuchinni, peaches, melons, lady cream peas, and even had blueberries last week. Some of that may be finishing, though.

    Here’s to a happy fall, and great gardens. I’m ready to get our tomatoes back!

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    • Bill says:

      Our zukes are done and the squash, tomatoes and cukes have one foot in the grave. The eggplant are still going strong and our purple hulls and okra have started to arrive. We’re also picking watermelons, cantaloupes and winter squash now. I enjoy the transitions and adjusting to the foods of the season. But I confess I’m going to miss my tomato sandwiches. I like learning about what is coming in elsewhere, so thanks for sharing about your market. It makes my smile to know that you have your own favorite farm. We have folks like you and they are a blessing.

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  3. How sensible of you, Bill. When most of us are putting the garden to bed, you have things growing and thriving. Why don’t more of us plant fall gardens, I wonder?

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    • Bill says:

      When I was growing up the only thing we planted in the fall was turnip greens. Considering how well fall gardens grow here (as I discovered when we started farming) I found it odd that more people didn’t grow gardens in the fall. I asked my mother if she knew why they didn’t grow veggies in the fall and she guessed that it was because everyone was too busy harvesting tobacco that time of year. There just wasn’t any time. All the gardening and canning was done earlier in the year. I don’t know if that is the reason or not, but it makes sense in our community, where tobacco was the labor-intensive cash crop.

      I know a couple of market gardeners/small farmers who now only grow spring and fall crops, not even bothering with the summer veggies, except in small quantities for themselves. Both explained it the same way: why fight the heat, the bugs and the weeds to grow sweet corn, watermelons and tomatoes, when seemingly everyone in the county is growing them and bringing their excess to market and selling them dirt cheap? They’re being sensible, but for now at least I don’t want to give up those summer crops.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Susan says:

    Ah, see—you can’t give up your market garden–it’s in the blood now.
    But I agree that hand working beds is actually EASIER (though that’s hard to wrap our minds around). And facing small beds is certainly easier on the mind. It’s nothing to convince myself to do one little bed at a time rather than facing one huge space. I guess that’s how I ended up with
    28 (!!) raised beds in my garden. 5 minutes per bed. Heck, I can whip off a bunch of them just drinking coffee.
    I’m envious of your fall cropping. I’m just about done–frost should be here in just a few weeks.

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    • Bill says:

      I love the way you garden and I admit to being very envious at your beautiful beds and well-groomed weed-free paths. Knowing how productive our raised beds are, I’m sure you’re producing a huge amount of high quality food from those beds. We have 16 small beds now and I plan to add more over the winter. I just have to get the discipline to retire gardens as we add beds!

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  5. As I’ve gotten older my garden has gotten smaller and is all raised beds and no till. So much easier on the body. I’ve raised my strawberries to 3 feet high and wish I had gone for 4 ft so there would be no bending over at all. The other beds are standard height and I set on a bucket to work the beds. Potatoes are grown in grates above ground and I just keep adding compost and straw mix as the grow. Harvesting is a matter of either tipping the crate over or taking one side off and pulling the dirt out with hands … easy on the back and the rest of the body. The tomatoes and sweet potatoes are grown in straw bales . After the harvesting the bales are then torn apart and added to the existing raised beds or flower beds . Everybody and everything are happy and growing well ..when I remember to plant on time πŸ™‚

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    • Bill says:

      I need to be more intentional about transitioning to methods like yours. I especially like the idea of growing potatoes that way, which other commenters have mentioned as well. Definitely something I’m going to look into for next year.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, I don’t think I’ll ever get to all raised beds. Some thing just don’t grow well in beds. Watermelons, pumpkins, squash, and other veggies that grow on a vine need their space. I have a 30X30 foot space this year for the watermelon and pumpkins. They filled up that space with just a few plants. Eventually I’ll have 15 raised beds at Terra Nova Gardens with a shed and sitting area in front of the shed. I would like a cold frame too but that will most likely be one of my four backyard raised beds. It seems like a never ending process now but some time in the future it will be finished or not. It seems that my garden designing is a never ending process. I’m beginning to think I enjoy designing and building the garden more than using it. It’s been an enlightening conclusion for me. I did get two rows of peas planted one on either side of a 10 foot hog wire fence that’s four foot high. They’re supposed to be germinated in two weeks so we will see what happens. That’s probably the only Fall crops that I’ll be planting.

    Have a great

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    • My garden is constantly changing too. πŸ™‚ I have started calling it the “experimental garden” πŸ™‚

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    • Bill says:

      I plant watermelons 6 feet apart, so you’re right about that. I’m probably going to scale back on the number of melons we grow next year. But I may need to keep a regular garden for them. I went through my list of gardens and crops to decide which ones I could get rid of and unsurprisingly I didn’t want to get rid of any of them.

      I’m just now getting things going the way I planned them a couple of years ago, so in a way it is strange to be considering a significant change. But I’ve learned that I just can’t keep up in the summer and still have time to do the other things that need doing around here. I guess it’s good not be unwilling to make changes. Of course, once winter rolls around and the pressure is off it’s possible I’ll decide not to make any changes at all!

      Hope you have a great crop of peas this fall. I’m envying your sweet corn. πŸ™‚

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