As lush and vibrant as a summer garden may be, there really is nothing like the peaceful, quiet warmth of a stunningly colorful fall garden. Gardeners know that the ‘hands-on’ nature of the gardening process enriches the soul, reduces stress and is beneficial physical exercise. Gardeners are immersed in all the joys and challenges of working in harmony with nature. Many strive to improve the environment and demonstrate their loving and credible respect for the earth. The labor results in a fruitful harvest that can become the pinnacle of both bountiful foods and a stunning landscape.

Winter can be long, and by the time “cabin fever” sets in, gardeners are more than ready to select their spring and summer plantings. Fall gardens take less effort to maintain and allow for optimizing the beauty of the autumnal season, before winter sets in again.

1) Prepare Ahead of Time

Summer is often so enjoyable that it’s difficult to consider its brevity, and the reality of fall’s arrival 90 days later. However, that’s exactly what is necessary to adequately plan for a fall garden. Of course, you don’t want to disrupt the beauty and productivity of your summer garden, which goes against the very heart of what it means to have a green thumb. If you make specific selections of cool and cold loving plants ahead of time, you can leave your summer bounty right where it is and allow it to live out its natural cycle. 

When you think through your gardening project, group the cool-loving plants together, such as the root vegetables, peas, and leafy greens. In a different bed, plant your summer crops such as corn, tomatoes and peppers. This way, you won’t have to worry about removing one set of crops to allow for another.

Make sure to rid your planting beds of weeds and diseased materials as soon as you spot them. Infested crops and plants that are soiled by pests should be burned, not composted.

2) Determine Garden Space & Time

As you’ve gardened throughout the summer, you may have decided to expand or redefine the perimeter of your garden beds. Factors in deciding this might include time and effort availability, desire to increase self-sustainability and space adequacy. 

Map out the gardening zones to determine how many seeds or seedlings you will need to purchase for your fall garden. 

Consider how you will keep wildlife and pests from taking over the garden. Deer and other animals are keenly attracted to gardens and will be eager to feast, especially with winter on the horizon. Choosing the appropriate placement for deer fence posts and installing a deer fence will keep you worry free throughout the year as they are durable and highly weather resistant.

Depending on your growth zone, decide when it is best to sow the seeds and add the sprouts and seedlings for crops and colorful flowers and foliage that will occupy your fall garden. 

3) Modify the Soil

Plants want to be well-nourished and will thrive in soil that is rich in nutrients. Add organic materials such as compost to the soil at least two weeks beforehand so the garden can absorb these amendments and adjust. 

Some examples of soil additives to enhance the viability and nutrient basis include worm compost, greens and manure, bat guano, homemade compost, wood chips, and leaf mold. 

While it is ideal to add the supplements two weeks ahead of your fall planting schedule, don’t prevent yourself from the pleasure of fall gardening if time is of the essence and you must plant sooner!

4) Commence with Sowing

Based on your gardening hardiness zone and the recommendations made based on the current year’s weather, you’re now ready to sow the seeds or plant the sprouts into your garden beds. Along with CO2 reducing colorful and ornamental trees, you can choose hardy perennials such as:

  • Crimson Clover            
  • Tango Hummingbird Mint
  • ‘Rocketman’ Russian Sage
  • Fireworks Goldenrod
  • Asters
  • Leadwort
  • Cone Flower
  • Orange Black-eyed Susan’s
  • Hardy Mums
  • Blanket Flowers

Your crop of kale, broccoli, carrots, pumpkins, gourds, beets and cauliflower will flourish well into fall, adding to your good health and the garden’s texture along with beautiful ornamental grasses and shrubs. While the cold season plants may be hardy against the cooler temperatures, be sure to monitor their progress and keep the soil moist.

5) Expect the Unexpected

The fall months are well-known for being unpredictable, more so in some locations than others. Because of this, you’ll want to be prepared to protect your plants from an early frost, if Mother Nature decides to deliver one to your area. 

  • Cover the plants on nights when a frost is expected
  • Use mulch to retain heat in the soil
  • Keep the soil moist (but don’t soak it) as water can retain heat better than dry soil

With a little bit of planning, love, and care, you can prolong the growing season to include the fall months and enjoy the bountiful harvest and beauty that is a gorgeous and stunning fall living masterpiece.