Just because you're wearing gloves doesn't mean you still can't show off your green thumb. Despite the cooler weather and the impending arrival of frost and snow, autumn is a great time to garden. For one thing, you don't have to worry about heat exposure and dehydration — fall usually brings more consistent rain in most regions. At the same time, the season sees fewer pests preying on your plants. So, before you tuck your tools away and settle in for a winter spent indoors, consider digging into your fall garden. And if you do, be sure to consider these five tips.
1. Plant all the good fall vegetables for a flavorful winter harvest
As the weather begins to cool, you may consider putting your vegetable garden to bed. But several vegetables thrive in cooler temperatures. And seasonal food has excellent benefits. For one thing, eating seasonally is environmentally friendly. After all, you are reducing your carbon footprint because your local seasonal vegetables don't have to be flown or driven to you — no transportation means fewer CO2 emissions.
But there's a personal upside to consuming seasonal food, too, as it adds colorful variety to life. Search the Internet for brand new dishes to cook and then become a rock star in the kitchen. With a bit of planning, you can enjoy your own fresh, homegrown vegetables well into the autumn months. And you're even doing something for the environment because you're simply growing your own groceries.
Some of the best fall vegetables include kale, spinach, carrots, turnips, and radishes. These hearty greens are packed with nutrients and are relatively easy to grow. One of the best things about growing veggies in the fall is you don't have to worry about them getting too much sun. Too much heat can make some of these greens bitter. So, if you're looking for a way to extend your growing season, consider planting some cool-weather vegetables this fall. It's worth it.
2. Mulch around plants to protect them from the cold
We all need to cover up in the cold — including your green friends in the garden. That's because, during winter, the soil around your plants can freeze solid, preventing moisture and nutrients from reaching the roots. And this can damage plants or even kill them. So, to protect your plants from the cold weather, it's important to mulch around them. Mulch is any material you spread over the ground to insulate it. What mulch does is help keep the soil warm by trapping heat from the sun. And it also helps to prevent evaporation of moisture from the ground. As a result, mulching is an essential part of winter plant care.
Important: Don't buy mulch separately to ensure you continue to garden sustainably. Because everything you need for this, you certainly have at home. Here are some standard types of mulch and some excellent alternatives:
- Wood chips
- Grass clippings
- Pine needles
- Old newspaper with soil on top
3. Harvest ripe fruits and vegetables before the first frost
If you're someone who loves to cook with fresh fruits and vegetables, the arrival of fall can be a bittersweet time. After all, while the cooler weather brings an abundance of seasonal produce, it also signals the end of the growing season. As the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder, plants begin to prepare for winter by shutting down their growth. For many fruits and vegetables, this process starts with the production of a sugar called fructose.
Fructose helps to protect plants from freezing temperatures, but it also gives them a sweeter taste. As a result, harvesting fruits and vegetables before the first frost can help ensure they are at peak flavor. In addition, harvesting before the frost allows you to enjoy your favorite seasonal produce one last time before it disappears until next year. If you will, the first frost is precisely the time when you say goodbye to certain fruits and vegetables and add new ones.
A little tip if you might have too many fruits or veggies: You can always boil it all down, ferment it or pickle it in vinegar. Then you can eat it later. That's super sustainable.
4. Bring potted plants indoors to protect them
As the temperatures drop, it's crucial to bring your potted plants and vegetables inside. Some plants are not cold hardy and will die if exposed to frost or freezing temperatures. Others may survive but will not produce any fruit or vegetables. By bringing your plants inside, you can protect them from the worst of the winter weather and ensure they continue to thrive.
Potted herbs such as rosemary, sage, and thyme are well suited to indoor living. And of course, don't forget about the fruits! Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons will do poorly in the cold but can thrive indoors. Also, you should bring your tomatoes into the warm and cut down the plant a little, which we will explain in the next tip.
5. Prune your vegetable plants ahead of winter
Every gardener knows fall is the time to start thinking about pruning your vegetable plants. But which plants should you prune, and why is pruning so necessary? Most vines, like tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash, will produce more fruit if you prune them back in the fall. This is because pruning encourages the plant to put all its energy into fruit production rather than foliage growth. Other plants, like peppers and eggplants, produce fruit on new growth, so you'll want to wait until spring to prune them. As for herbs, many will benefit from a light pruning in the fall, encouraging new growth in the spring. Pruning is essential because, in the colder seasons, photosynthesis slows down, and the nutrients the plant is producing are no longer needed. Pruning helps the plant focus its energy on surviving the winter rather than growing food.