fall garden planning, pt 1
follow along my beginning stages to planning my fall garden
It is almost comforting to plan for the fall garden while the temperatures push 100° outside and sunscreen sticks to me like glue.
I am very happily overwhelmed with the happenings of the last two weeks: I officially registered little Floricult as an LLC, purchased a truck (!!!!!), visited my new baby nephew in Ohio, have installed two very cool custom gardens, and started designing a handful of multi-phase perennial + edible gardens.
I was also gifted a toaster oven with a dehydrator in it by my friend Leah, and have been dehydrating basil, sage, calendula, and feverfew constantly. I am pretty proud of this; I am notoriously bad at saving food, and this is a personal triumph. Echinacea and parsley are next.
Fall planning begins for me in July/August, and I will be dedicating the next 3 newsletters to this process so you can follow along. I will try to cover everything I’m doing; ask questions in the comments along the way!
Your three assignments for this week: Make a list of what you want to grow, purchase your seeds, and calculate how much amendment/what kind you need.
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WHAT IS A FALL GARDEN?
In Zone 7, fall straddles the warm season and the cool season, which is admittedly confusing. Fall, really, is Oct-Nov-Dec.
Many gardeners start “fall gardening” once most summer/warm season plants reach their peak and start to get yanked out of the garden - around July and August.
The other challenge is that first and last frosts are so unpredictable now; most people in Central NC say first frost is right before Thanksgiving, but it could be as early mid-October, or not arrive until December. (Last year, our first frost was November 14. 2017-2020 was always mid-November. 2016 was October 15. It’s so unpredictable that some friends and I started a betting pool tonight)
I am working backwards from November 1st, and if it comes later, I just have a longer growing season and more time to put out frost cloth.
HOW TO STRUCTURE A FALL GARDEN
Because I am starting in late summer, my fall garden is divided into three groups:
Fast growing warm season plants that I want more of (bush beans, cucumbers, summer squash). Many mature in only 60 days, so I can plant/harvest again before the first frost in November.
Cool season plants that I will harvest around the last frost
Cool season plants that will grow through the winter and harvest next spring (potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, kale)
This week, all I am doing is jotting down my wishlist, and exploring varieties of them.
Light freeze: 29° to 32°F — tender (warm season) plants are killed, but can survive with frost cloth. Cool season plants are fine. In Piedmont Area, expect between Nov 1-Nov 15.
Moderate freeze: 25° to 28°F — Cool season plants survive with frost cloth. Most cold season plants okay, but need physical protection from ice/heavy snow. In Piedmont Area, expect between Dec 1-Jan 1. During warm years, this may not happen until January or February.
Severe/Hard freeze: 24°F and colder — Cool season plants will die. Cold season can survive with physical covering and heavy mulching. Some years it never gets this cold here; last year it was extremely cold and under 24° often.
MY FALL GARDEN LIST
I have included the average days to maturity next to each plant, although varieties can really vary - so make sure you check. Make sure you don’t actually purchase one with a very long maturity window, or if you do, that you have row covers + frost protection!
Do you have any varieties you’re really excited to grow? Please share in the comments; I love discovering new ones!
MY SUMMER REPEATS
Bush Cucumbers - whatever seeds I already have on hand
Long White of Palermo Zucchini (45-55 days) — by seed
Dragon Tongue Beans (60 days) — by seed
MY COOL SEASON / FALL + EARLY WINTER HARVEST
Peas  — all by seed
Herbs: Dill, Cilantro — all by seed, but transplants as backup
Celery (Maybe, still on the fence)
MY COOL SEASON / NEXT SPRING HARVEST
SITE PREP: AMENDING
I will be adding 2-4” of nutrient-rich compost to the top of my beds. This adds nutrients back into the depleted soil, adds more biology, and will help hold more water during the heat. Here are my best recommendations for what to amend with!
A compost that you’ve made
A blend of animal manure + plant compost
Animal manure: Daddy Pete’s Kickin’ Chicken, well-rotted compost from a local organic farm
Plant manure: Leaf compost, mushroom compost
FoxFarm Soil Conditioner
FoxFarm Ocean Forest or Daddy Pete’s Raised Bed mix if you feel your beds are too sandy and you need to add more vermiculite/perlite/pine bark to it to help
I recommend not using 100% animal manure because it is high in salt and you will likely get way more phosphorus than nitrogen, causing more issues in the future.
PS. If you are in Winston and want me to source + deliver soil or amendments to your home, DM me at @floricultgardens!
SITE PREP OPTION: SHADE CLOTH
You have two options for fall — wait until the heat breaks to start seedlings and push it close to frost, or go ahead and plant but protect them with shade cloth.
I do half and half, but I will be buying more shade cloth while it’s still affordable. We’re likely going to need as much assistance mitigating the weather fluctuations in the future, and the pricing right now is the best it will be.
I will write about timing / calendars next week, but if you want to jump ahead, here is a great local resource. I do plant things outside of these windows, and with luck - so no need to follow it stringently. Your local Facebook gardening/farming groups will provide you with a lot of support.
Until next time, here’s an adorable photo of Max and Pixel.