From Antivist


Extend Your Vegetable Growing Season with Minimal Effort

It's easy to become complacent when your vegetable garden first starts producing in early summer. But to get the most out of your vegetable garden, plan on harvesting into the fall or even the winter, where weather permits.

Keeping your vegetable plants healthy is the first key to a long producing vegetable garden. But even the healthiest vegetable plants will finally exhaust themselves setting fruits and will need replacing. With a little planning, you can easily keep your vegetable garden producing in succession.

  1. Keep Picking Don't give up and leave those over ripened zucchini on the vines. Once a plants fruits have gone to seed, it thinks it is done for the season and begins to decline. Many plants, like squash, beans, peppers and eggplant, will stop producing new vegetables if the existing veggies are left on the plants to fully ripen.
  1. Water Regularly Vegetables don't just need water, they need regular, consistent watering. Irregular watering results in diseases like blossom end rot, in cracking and can often make the vegetables bitter tasting. Allowing plants to dry out will stress the plant and cause it to stop producing and to drop whatever blossoms it already has.
  1. Control Insects & Diseases Stop problems while they are small. Plants can defoliate from fungus diseases and a plant with no leaves is not going to produce fruit.
  1. Feed Lightly You've asked a lot from your vegetable plants and they could use a little food by mid-summer, no matter how rich your soil is. But feed them lightly, especially with nitrogen. Too much nitrogen will encourage a lot of leaf growth and inhibit fruit production.
  1. Let the Sun Shine In Make sure the vegetables are getting enough sunlight. Sometimes by the middle of summer, there is so much foliage that the sunlight can't get through. Most vegetables ripen faster in sunlight and produce tastier fruits. Vegetables that languish in the shade of leaves are more susceptible to insects and diseases.
  1. Weed It's easy to let things slide toward the end of summer, but weeds will compete with your vegetable plants for water and nutrients, just when they need it most.
  1. Succession Planting Planting crops at intervals will renew your garden by having new plants ready to take over for spent plants. Beans, radishes and lettuce can be seeded every two weeks, for an almost endless supply. Seedlings of early maturing tomatoes can be planted to replace plants that are on their last legs.
  1. Fall Planting The cooler weather and shorter days of fall make it a more ideal planting season than spring, as long as an early frost doesn't spoil everything. Peas, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and greens can all be planted in July and August for harvest in September and October. In milder areas, harvesting can extend into winter.
  1. When seeding in late summer, plant your seeds a little deeper than you would in the spring, to take advantage of cooler soil and moisture. Shading the newly planted seeds and seedlings will help protect them from the summer sun. Mulch, row covers and taller plants, like your mature tomatoes, can be used for this.
  1. Extend the season Cool nighttime temperatures send a signal to many plants to stop producing new fruits. If cool temperatures or a frost are inevitable, cover your crops with floating row covers. These light-weight woven fabric allow light and water to come through, but raise the temperature slightly. If your crops need to be fertilized by insects, the row covers should come off during the day.

Fall Garden Planting Schedule

Having a fall garden planting schedule is a great way to extend your growing season as well as make necessary improvements to your landscape. Fall is the best time for many of these chores because the plants grow better in the warm soil and cool breezes. There is also less worry of bugs and weeds, making your job much simpler.

Trees and Shrubs

Fall is an ideal time to add trees or shrubs to your yard. The planting of trees and shrubs is best done during the cool fall temperatures. Even though the air is cool, the soil is still warm and nurturing for new plants.

Choose a tree that is balled-and-burlapped or in a pot as opposed to bare-root selections. Planting in early fall gives the root system time to get established before going dormant in the winter. As the tree or shrub prepares itself for dormancy, its energy is focused on the roots. This is ideal place to concentrate growth in new plantings.

The planting hole should be two to three times wider than the root ball but only as deep as the soil line on the trunk. Do not add soil amendments to the hole. This will discourage the roots from spreading out and cause a weak plant that is easily uprooted.


Grasses benefit from being planted in the fall as well. In fact, this is the perfect time to start a new lawn or over-seed a thin lawn. The grass will grow faster and have less competition from weeds.

Speaking of weeds, fall is the also time to combat them. As weeds prepare for winter by pulling nutrients into the roots, herbicides are better absorbed as well. Better absorption means better results in killing weeds.

Fall is also the time to aerate if you have a half inch or more of thatch built up. Don’t forget to fertilize using a fertilizer that has slow- or controlled-release nitrogen. The N-P-K should be a ratio of 3:1:2 or 4:1:2. Fertilizer is best absorbed after you have aerated your lawn.

Fall Vegetable Gardens

If you are planning a fall vegetable garden, you need to consider several things. One is the type of vegetables you will be growing. Another item is to determine the first average frost date where you live.

Average frost dates are easy to find out. Simply call your county Extension Office or look on a garden zone chart. A great resource to look up average first and last frost dates is Victory Seeds’ frost date selector.

Vegetable selection is a bit trickier. You want to be sure that you are selecting vegetables that are frost tolerant. You can choose plants that are not frost tolerant if you look at the maturity rates of each one and do a bit of figuring before planting.

Seeds vs. Seedlings

If you are starting from seed you will want to start them early to allow for slower maturity as the days get shorter in the fall. If you are planting cold hardy vegetables this isn’t as critical.

For plants that die back when the first frost hits, you will need to calculate the days until harvest. You may want to add a few extra days to allow for slower growth. This way you are able to harvest your crop before the plant dies off.

As an example, a packet of cucumber seeds says it takes 50 days to harvest. If your average first frost date is September 20, you will want to plant your seeds by June first to allow for harvest before the frost.

If you are able to find plant starts at your local garden center, you will be able to plant a bit later. Using the same example of cucumbers, the seeds take eight days to germinate. If you have purchased plants you can plant about two weeks later and still be able to harvest before the frost.

Selections for a Fall Garden

Some vegetables you can consider adding to your fall garden planting schedule include:

  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Sweet corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Melons
  • Squash
  • Turnips
  • Tomatoes

If you have a very early first frost some of these may not be an option for you. Calculate to be sure the plant will be ready for harvest in time. Some vegetables, like kale, actually taste better after a light frost. Others can be protected with row covers or a cold frame to extend the season further.

Dates for a Fall Garden Planting Schedule

Here is a sample of planting dates depending on your first average frost. In this sample schedule, the earliest planting would be for eggplant. The latest date is for radishes. Other vegetables would be planted sometime between the two.

First Average Frost Planting Dates First Average Frost Planting Dates
August 30 June 1 through July 15 October 30 July 5 through September 30
September 10 May 15 through August 1 November 10 July 15 through October 10
September 20 June 1 through August 15 November 20 July 25 through October 20
September 30 June 1 through September 1 November 30 August 5 through October 30
October 10 June 10 through August 20 December 10 August 15 through November 10
October 20 July 5 through September 20 December 20 August 25 through November 20

If you are in doubt, check with your county Extension Office. Often they will have a chart detailing what can be planted each month. By following the guidelines in this article you can have a nearly year round garden and enjoy fresh produce on your table.

Fall Chores

  1. Enrich garden beds with compost or manure.
  2. Collect dried seed from open pollinated flowers & veggies.
  3. Clean bird feeders to get them ready for use.
  4. Gather herbs, seed heads and flowers for drying.
  5. Clean out cold frames for winter use.
  6. Cover water gardens with netting to keep the falling leaves out.
  7. Keep trees and shrubs well watered until the ground freezes.
  8. Cut back diseased perennials and remove all foliage.

Don’t compost.

  1. Clean, sand and oil garden tools before storing them for the winter.
  2. Take cuttings.

Essential Fall Garden Cleanup

Diseased Plants

Cleaning away diseased and damaged plant material at the end of the growing season is an essential fall chore. The fungi and bacteria that cause so many problems can overwinter on contaminated stems and roots. Removing these havens for disease will reduce the chance of seeing blight, mildew, gray mold fungus, root rot, and wilt in next year’s garden.

How much plant material should you remove? That depends on conditions in your particular garden. Obviously, any diseased material has to be cleared away. If a particular kind of disease has been a problem, it’s also a good idea to remove the remains of any plant that is ordinarily susceptible to that problem, even if it looked healthy all season. Some gardeners like to remove all plant material that has died back after a frost as a further precaution. garden debris

All healthy plant material can be composted, including twigs. Unhealthy material should only be composted if you manage your compost pile with strict controls and can be sure that the compost pile will reach a temperature of at least 120 F and remain at that temperature for two to three weeks. A “hot” compost pile will kill disease organisms and insect larvae.

If your composting practices are more casual, don’t put unhealthy material in the pile. Burn it, if burning is allowed in your neighborhood, or send it to a landfill.

Fallen Leaves

Left undisturbed, fallen leaves will gradually decompose and enrich the soil beneath. This is a natural cycle in a forest, and parts of your garden may benefit from a little benign neglect. Doing nothing can sometimes be the best practice for a healthy garden.

However, most gardens are not a natural forest environment. When a thick layer of leaves carpets the soil, they break down and form a crust, called a leaf pack. Sometimes, the surface of the leaf pack becomes so hard and dense that water can’t get through it. Anything growing beneath a heavy leaf pack is in danger of being smothered. Grass is particularly vulnerable; you really must remove fallen leaves from your lawn.

Community standards also dictate how you will manage fallen leaves. There may be local ordinances that require you to rake all leaves off your garden beds. You may have to remove them to make your neighbors happy.

Don’t trash those leaves! Put them on your compost pile, and look forward to next year’s healthful compost.

Perennial Garden

Perennial plants are left in the ground all winter, so good care in the fall will improve your chances for healthy growth in the spring. Some gardeners cut back all their perennial plants in the fall to a height of three to six inches. Others only remove the stems and foliage of damaged plants. Most gardeners choose an approach somewhere between these extremes.

It’s essential to remove any plant growth that showed a serious problem in the previous year. It’s a good idea to remove foliage and stems of any plant that often has problems in your general area. Peonies and roses, for example, are vulnerable to black spot, somust gardeners remove the foliage even if it was healthy all summer. Iris should also be cut back, because the eggs of iris borers overwinter on iris leaves and attack the rhizomes in the spring. Phlox is often troubled by powdery mildew, and if that is a problem in your area, cut back phlox stems also.

When you cut back perennials, it is a good idea to mark their location with a stake. That way, you’ll know where they are in the spring! This is also a good time to make a sketch or map of your garden, indicating which perennials you have and where each one is located. That will make garden planning more fun all winter as well as reminding you of plant locations in early spring.

Cutting back other perennials is optional. Many gardeners admire the look of plant stalks covered with snow or ice. Others like to watch the birds that gather to eat dried seeds from perennials like Echinacea.

In areas with cold winters and little snow cover, perennials will benefit from a protective winter mulch.

Vegetable Garden

Many experts recommend removing all plant material – roots, leaves, and stems – from the vegetable garden every fall, because vegetables are vulnerable to so many diseases and pests. Others feel that removing diseased or particularly vulnerable plants is enough.

Cleaning up vines after pumpkins, squash, and fall beans have been harvested helps eliminate squash bugs and cucumber beetles, two very common pests. When these insects have no late fall food source, they are more likely to be killed by cold weather.

Removing the entire tomato plant after harvest, including the roots, helps control foliar diseases such as early blight.

Removing dead foliage also removes a warm, comfortable home for small animals like mice. Rodents are not welcome in your vegetable garden if you want to eat the crop yourself!

After you have removed all diseased plants, till the garden. If you wish to add soil amendments, you can till them into the soil at the same time. Tilling is especially important because most disease microorganisms are destroyed once the plant material is mixed into the soil and begins to rot.

It’s not necessary to smooth the surface of the garden after fall tilling. In fact, the freeze-and-thaw cycle will help improve the texture of the soil.

Remember to make a chart of the layout of your vegetable garden, so that you can rotate crops next spring. This is one of the best ways to keep diseases and pests under control.

Disease microorganisms can also overwinter on the surface of stakes, tomato cages, trellises, and other garden items. Storing these items outdoors, where freezing nd thawing can kill the spores, is helpful. In the spring, clean them with a 10 percent bleach solution or other disinfectant before using them in the garden.


  • Stop pruning and fertilizing
  • Bring summer vacationing houseplants back indoors while the windows are still open. Check carefully for hitchhiking pests
  • Start fall clean-up in the flower beds, cutting back anything that has finished blooming or is diseased
  • Take cuttings to overwinter indoors
  • Watch for frost warning and cover tender plants
  • Photograph your gardens and containers for a record of the year’s triumphs and frustrations
  • Give the compost a last turn


  • Divide and move perennials
  • Dig and store tender bulbs like: dahlias, caladiums, cannas and tuberous begonias
  • Start planting spring flowering bulbs


  • Harvest remaining vegetables, including green tomatoes.
    • (Ripen by wrapping each in a sheet of newspaper and storing in a cool (55 - 60 degrees F.) dark spot
  • Wait for a hard frost before harvesting Brussel Sprouts
  • Pick herbs for drying or freezing
  • Cure winter squash for storage. Place in a cool, sheltered shady spot for about 1 month.


  • Clean up fallen fruit

Trees & Shrubs

  • Plant trees and shrubs. Keep well watered, if there isn’t sufficient rain.


  • Dispose of any diseased or infested plant debris, to avoid overwintering the problem


  • Get your soil tested and add amendments as needed.
  • Amend your soil with a dressing of compost
  • Turn your compost pile.
  • Use your garden debris and leaves to start a compost pile.
  • Plant trees and shrubs. Be sure to keep them well-watered, even through the winter (Snow permitting).
  • Make sure all vacationing houseplants are brought back inside.
  • Continue planting garlic.
  • Plant cool season annuals.
    • Covering mums and asters on nights when a frost is expected, will lengthen their blooming.
  • Clear away dead foliage.
  • Dry and save seed.
  • Take cuttings of tender perennials.
  • Harvest and dry or freeze herbs for winter use.
  • Remove green tomatoes from the plants. Either ripen in a brown paper bag or lift the entire plant and hang upside down in a warm spot, to ripen.
  • Harvest winter squash once the vines die back, but definately before a hard freeze.
  • Continue harvesting fall crops like beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale and leeks.
  • Clean and put away empty containers and garden ornaments.
  • Clean and sharpen gardening tools.
  • Clean bird feeders.
  • Think about a de-icer for the birdbath. If you're in an area that freezes and you don't have a de-icer, turn your birdbath over to keep it from cracking.
  • Enjoy the season. Show off your harvest with a fall display.
  • Start raking. Shred or compost this fall gold.
  • Cut back and remove diseased perennial foliage.
  • Finish planting bulbs.
  • Keep transplants watered.

Indoor Plants

  • House plants start to slow down as the days get shorter. Cut back on watering and feeding until next spring. Winter feeding will result in weak growth.
  • Plan for Christmas blooms on your poinsettia and Christmas cacti. Move both plants so that they are in temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees F. Make sure the Christmas cacti get at least 13 hours of complete darkness at night. Poinsettia will need about 15 hours in the dark. For most of us, this will mean covering the plants themselves. When uncovered, place in bright light. Provide them with water and a general purpose fertilizer.


  • Rake leaves and make leaf mold or compost
  • Clean, sharpen, and oil garden tools.
  • Start forcing bulbs like paperwhites, hyacinth and amaryllis for the holidays
  • Add organic matter to beds
  • Cover compost so that rain doesn't flood and leach the nutrients
  • Keep weeding

Frosty Zones (Zones 6 and down)

  1. Keep watering trees and shrubs until the ground freezes
  2. Protect your roses by mounding soil around the crown and covering the bud union.

Tie down climbing rose canes to protect them from cold winds.

  1. Clean up garden debris and cut back and remove any diseased or infested foliage.
  2. Protect evergreens from deer damge by circling with stakes and burlap.
  3. Protect young trees from mice damage by wrapping wire around the bottom portion of the trunk
  4. Protect plants from vole damage by not mounding mulch too close to the plant
  5. Get those bulbs into the ground NOW
  6. Drain and store hoses
  7. If you're planning on buying a live Christmas tree with the intention of planting it this winter, dig the hole now, before the ground freezes. Remember to keep the soil covered, so that it too does not freeze and can go back into the hole.

Indoor Plants

  • Check that indoor plants are receiving enough water, humdity and air circulation.
  • Keep an eye out for pests like spider mites and scale, and take care of them before they become a problem.
Your Ad Here
Personal tools