fall garden planning, pt 2
my favorite season is coming!
Hello to my garden buddies, new and old —
This newsletter is the second part of a 3 part series, bringing you along the fall garden planning journey! If you have not read part one yet, I highly recommend giving it a skim before continuing.
WHY IS FALL GARDENING THE BEST
I absolutely love gardening in the fall. The heat breaks, the humidity is gone, and everything from the garden gets sweeter. There are fewer bugs and pests, less watering, and fewer weeds. Fall gardening really is the dream. If you haven’t grown during this season, I invite you to try it out this year in any capacity - large or small.
If you are in a dramatically different zone than me (we are Zone 7B which is somewhat temperate but does get down to 15-20°-ish in the late winter), I recommend finding some other gardeners on IG, TikTok or YouTube in your zone to get ideas for their methods and what grows best in your region.
THE PRIMARY CHALLENGE TO FALL GARDENING
The only challenge of the fall garden is how variable the 🥶 first frost date 🥶 is.
My best advice is to search 2-3 sources for the frost dates in your area. Start here by zipcode and then look up your local county’s extension center. For example, NOAA says October 26th, my extension says Nov 3, and historical data says Nov 15th.
Temperatures are different every year, and every institution does their best at guessing.
Pick a date in the middle and learn what to do if it comes early — and enjoy if it comes late.
HELPFUL TIMING PRINCIPLES
➡️ When temps dip below 32°, your warm season plants will die. Cool/cold season will be fine.
➡️ When temps dip below 28°, cool season plants may die or be injured unless they are protected with frost cloth.
➡️ When temps dip below 23-24°, your cool and cold season plants may be injured without a heavier protection (cold frames, thicker frost cloth). Physical ice and snow can kill above-ground cold season plants too (except kale! cabbage! brussels! fava beans!) if not protected. Cold hardy plants can usually survive down to 20° without protection.
➡️ For cool/cold season, you want ~75% of the plant’s growth/days to maturity to happen before hours of daylight falls below 12 hours - around Thanksgiving here in North Carolina. It’s not just temperature that affects ability to grow, it is # of hours of sunlight too.
A NOTE ABOUT RULES, SPREADSHEETS, & PLANNING
I go back and forth between detailed planning and instinct/what I feel like. Life happens, weather happens, and I am not as disciplined as many people think.
Calculating dates in an excel spreadsheet is not necessary (but it can be helpful) and following published calendars from the county extension is not the single source of truth (but it can guide decision making). These rules exist to help direct us until we learn how to observe, how to read the weather, and until we get enough experience to learn what works for us and our garden.
For example, I’ve noticed our extension office seems to suggest earlier planting, likely to safeguard from a first frost being early. It’s so damn hot over the last few years that I just am not going to follow it and put out all my seedlings in July and August. I’ll wait. As another example, I’m the only person alive that plants leeks in the fall. But it works for me, so I break my own calendar to do it.
Your three assignments fromlast
week: Make a list of what you want to grow, purchase your seeds, and calculate how much amendment/what kind you need.
Your only assignment forthis
week: Decide on yourLast Frost Date Guess
and make a little calendar, in excel or on paper. Mark when you need to start seeds indoors, and when they are transplanted out with anything else you buy. Estimate when they’ll be ready to harvest.
MY CALENDAR FOR REFERENCE
Here is my calendar below. It only looks overwhelming because I have several varieties of everything. I am growing 23 plants: Beets, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cilantro, Garlic, Kale, Leeks, Lettuce, Tatsoi, Onions, Parsnips, Peas, Raddichio, Radish, Sorrel, Spinach, Turnip, Dill, Beans, Zucchini, and Potatoes.
🟦 Blue boxes are things I will plant out later if it’s still blazing hot.
🟩 Light green is growing, dark green is harvest-ready.
◻️ Multiple boxes means I am succession planting. I experiment planting every few weeks to learn how late I can grow here, and also protect myself from weather tragedies.
As always, leave your questions in the comments! You can also join us for Office Hours tomorrow (Thursday) which I am thinking of switching to Wednesday evenings? Would anybody prefer that/have an easier time attending?
👩🏻🌾 » here’s my folder of free resources so you can create your own calendar « 👩🏻🌾
👩🏻🌾 » also helpful! what to plant by direct sow vs transplants vs indoor « 👩🏻🌾
📚 lastly, this is an outstanding handbook on how to grow year round and navigating fall + winter growing. 📚