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Op-Ed: Unique tips on how to take your summer garden into the fall

By Alyssa Sellors     Sep 17, 2014 in Lifestyle
Labor Day marked the unofficial end to summer and fall is just a few weeks away, which means summer gardens full of ripe tomatoes and overgrown watermelons are about to give way to hearty crops like broccoli and cabbage.
But, fall can be a tricky time for many gardeners. While taking your garden from to summer to fall can be a bit of a struggle, if you time everything right and try some unique methods of gardening, it can be a seamless transition. These tips are dependent on what kind of garden you have (raised bed for example), as well as your region and location of your garden, but these are helpful tips to take any garden through the seasons and keep crops steady and healthy.
First, know what to plant, what to harvest, and what to transplant. It’s harvest time for summer season crops like tomatoes, squash, peppers and melons but it’s planting time for heartier crops like onion, radishes, turnips and lettuce. As far as what to transplant, keep in mind that transplanted plants may not grow as well as desired and not all will thrive as desired. The best plants to transplant are going to be ones with larger root systems so you may want to let newly transplanted plants build root systems in a pot for about two weeks before replanting. Essentially, timing is everything, especially in fall gardening. Know when the average plant dates are for each crop, per your region, and make decisions based on this window of time. The survival and duration of fall crops depends on when the first frost occurs, as well as the overall tolerance of the crop, so timing that first frost is essential. Referring to a timeline that will help you with timing and what to focus on and when will also help plan out the timing of your fall garden.
It’s also a good idea to consider your fall garden in the beginning of summer by trying a few cooler season vegetables throughout to the end of summer. This does require balance and knowledge in when to plant these crops early enough to give them time to mature but also getting them through the hotter weather of the summer. Some crops will do better than others, and your region and climate are major factors, but next year you may consider trying your hand at experimenting with a few of these cooler weather crops like lettuce.
Next, prepare, prepare, prepare! Fall is the perfect time to prep your garden for springtime and “set up the conditions to build healthy soil over the winter,” which will pay off in the spring. Many people may not do too much gardening in the fall because they may be burnt out after summer crops, or they may simply not understand the importance of maintaining a healthy garden year-round. Preparing the soil is perhaps one of the most important prep steps for the fall. Retiling the soil, testing the soil, and fertilizing again as needed are all essential stages. A few specific tips include “chopping up spent summer plants with a lawn mower and incorporating them into the soil of the garden,” and adding a balancing fertilizer using a tiller which will help to increase your yield next season. But, be sure to first test the soil before adding any fertilizer so you know how much and what kind. You may also want to build on your compost pile with old summer crops.
Finally, try a few unique gardening ideas that will dress up your garden perfectly for the cool, fall air. Beyond the actual plants, you can make a visual transformation and pull in some creative harvest décor perfect for fall. Fall is not a huge gardening season for many so why not dress things up a bit while planning for seasons ahead? One of these fall inspired ideas is to create moss graffiti. Moss graffiti is relatively simply to do and it creates a very “organic” look without spending a lot of many. Some cities even use moss graffiti to decorate the sides of buildings to give the area a more “green” look even in the middle of a busy city. You will need a surface of course, and a brick or stone wall looks best, but as long as you have access to moss, a blender, and a few other ingredients, you can create beautiful designs perfect for fall. Another neat design idea is to use pumpkins and gourds in unique ways in the garden; for example, using them as planters for flowers or grasses. Scarecrows, whether you actually need them or not, are also great additions to fall gardens, and also fun to make!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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