Fall Garden Tips

September | Fall Garden Prep

September 03, 2020

The temperature is starting to drop and we are getting excited about fall veggies. There is still plenty more to do to make the most of the season.

Photography By Kelly Savoca

I spent a good portion of August cleaning up our beds. Due to the heat, I'd only pull up a few spent plants at a time. If you're quick to get to work - morning is a bit cooler. The remaining items in our beds are tomatoes, swiss chard, and pole beans.

I began planting squash in July & early August. While some might do this earlier, due to having a small space garden, I had to wait until there was room in the bed. We will not be planting much else as we plan to put a cover crop in one of the beds. Since our veggies seemed a little slow growing this year, we want to give the soil some added nutrients and rest so that come Spring it'll be in great shape! 

Now I'll share what else you can do to get ready for Fall, Winter, & even Spring gardening:

 

Fall Garden Prep

1 | Organize & plant Fall annuals like mums, violas, and pansies. Pansies will last well into winter, especially in the south. They'll also provide some attractive color. Beware though the rabbits love to munch on violas and pansies. 

2 | Plant root vegetables & greens. Yes, there is still time! Think carrots, radishes, turnips, spinach, & kale. Look for quick maturing varieties but veggies like kale don't mind cooler weather. You could even consider overwintering carrots for an earlier Spring harvest.

3 | Consider a cover crop. September is an ideal time in middle TN to plant one. Some examples are clover, alfalfa, rye, buckwheat, and oats. Depending on your needs, I recommend doing a little research on what crop is best suited to your space. The benefits of planting a cover crop include:

Improving soil structure by adding organic matter.
Reducing soil compaction.
Increasing the infiltration of water and reducing soil erosion.
Reducing weed growth.
Providing nitrogen after they die or suppress insect or disease populations.

 

4 | Plan for Spring bulbs & corms. Now is a great time to order and decide how many and what types of bulbs you'd like to plant for Spring. Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinth, Muscari, & Ranunculus just to name a few. These don't have to be planted right away but come October you'll want to consider getting them in the ground.

Fall Wildflower Planting 

5 | Sow Wildflowers. This might seem odd at first, but in most places, they'll be in better shape if started in the Fall vs. Spring. Part of the reason is due to how long it takes perennials to get fully established. By starting in the cool weather it will allow the perennials to germinate. The annuals will stay dormant until Spring. Be sure to choose wildflowers for your region - check out this site for great mixes. I'm also re-sharing the steps I used from Spring to create a meadow:
    
1 | Measure the bed size. You can walk this or use a measuring tape.
Width x Depth. Mine was only 9.375 sq. ft. ⁠  
 
2 | A general recommendation is to use about ¼ lb. seed per 250-500 sq. ft. Since I wanted to be sure flowers were filled in everywhere I went with the 250-sq. ft. as my guide.
 
FUN GARDEN MATH:
Bed Size: 7.5 ft. x 1.25 ft. = 9.375 sq. ft. 
Square Foot Coverage: 9.375 sq. ft. / 250 sq. ft. = 26   
Seed Guide: 4 oz. = ¼ lb.
Seed Amount for My Bed Size: 4 oz. / 26 = .15 oz.
 
This won’t seem like much seed at first. Once you weigh it you’ll realize just how lightweight the seed is. It ended up being a nice amount of seed (the picture above this section).
 
3 | Made & weighed my meadow mix. Using a small scale and a Pyrex measuring cup I added in seeds until I hit the .15 oz. If you prefer more perennials to annuals you could do more math to sort out the percentage.  
 
These were the seeds I had on hand:  
 
Annuals: Orange, Red, & Yellow Marigolds, French Marigolds
Perennials: Coneflower, Red & Yellow Blanket Flower, Coreopsis, Tall Bunch Grass, Snapdragon (tender perennial), Salvia, Lavender, & Wildflower Mix (most likely a combination of annual & perennial)
 

4 | Prepare the bed. In the winter, I added a light layer of compost and weeded. Since then some weeds had returned so I weeded again and loosened up my soil. Using a cultivator, I raked about 1” into the soil so that it wasn’t as compact. 

5 | Hand threw my seed into the patch. If you are doing a larger patch of land it is sometimes recommended to mix your seeds with sand as this will allow you to see how much seed you are throwing and will make sure small and large seeds fall evenly but since my patch was so small I did without the sand.

6 | Lastly, taking a piece of cardboard and working my way around existing Dianthus I pressed the seeds into the soil. This is the fun part! You don’t even have to bury them like other seeds. 

Pressing Wildflowers into Soil

*Pro-tip – Do not do this the day before a heavy downpour. Since my bed was on a slight angle and due to the amount of rain the area flooded a bit and the seeds shifted. It’s ok if it rains the next day just beware of a big storm that might carry your seeds elsewhere.

What fall tips do you have? Tag us at #cottonandmoss on Instagram to share!

 




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