One of the great blessings of living in Texas is that we can grow food all year long!
Fall is a great time to plant a whole new round of your favorite vegetables and can be just as productive (if not more so) than the spring!
Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare to plant again in the coming weeks:
1. Pay close attention to your planting calendar
Unlike the spring, when the end of the growing season is more flexible, the fall has a more definite end date. Our average first frost date for the Dallas area is right around November 15th. That means you should plan for your fall garden to be done and harvested by that time. Otherwise you're probably going to lose a lot of green tomatoes and under-developed squash to the first hard freeze of winter.
So check your planting calendar to see when exactly you should put in different plants and adhere to it! In the fall, if you miss the planting window, you may miss out entirely!
OUR PLANTING CALENDAR
2. Choose varieties that mature quickly
Since most fall gardens go in between mid-July and mid-September and end by mid-November, we only have a sure window of about 60 to 80 days to work with. Therefore, select varieties that mature quickly, so you can harvest them well before the first freeze. Tomatoes or peppers that are labeled to mature in 45 to 70 days are a safe bet, just make sure you plant them early enough to fit in the season.
3. Plan to plant for several weeks in succession
Not everything can or should be planted at the same time at the end of the summer, so make sure to leave some space in your garden for those vegetables that you'll plant in September or October.
Here's a general estimate for when to plan to plant different things:
4. Anticipate where the sun will be in a few weeks
As the fall progresses, the sun will slowly drop lower into the southern sky, therefore casting longer shadows towards the north. If your gardens are in various places around your property, pay close attention to any tall objects located to their south. They may get full sun in the summer when the sun is high overhead, but if they are located too close to objects on their south side, they will start to get shade as the fall progresses. Plan to plant leafy greens in these spots since they can manage with slightly less sun than tomatoes or peppers.
How to crudely (but surprisingly accurately) measure the height of the sun:
If you hold your arm out straight and make a fist, aligning the bottom of your fist with the horizon, the top of your fist will measure an angle of roughly 10 degrees from the horizon. Then by stacking your fists on top of each other, you can measure degrees in increments of 10.
Refer to the list below to get a good idea of how high the sun will be in the Dallas area on the given dates to estimate where shadows may fall on your gardens.
To do this experiment, be sure to stand where your garden is and notice if your house, a tree or anything else is visible between your fist and the sky.
5. Add more compost!
Because our growing seasons are short but intense, nutrients in the soil can be depleted quickly. Be sure to add a fresh layer of rich compost to each garden bed before planting again for the fall. Also, add a scoop of worm castings or fully composted cow manure to the bottom of each hole to give transplants a good nutrient boost from the start.
If you're not sure what or how much to add to your garden, give us a call and we'd be glad to give you an estimate for soil replenishment!
6. Extend the season by covering when frost threatens
What are some of your favorite ideas for growing a successful fall garden?
Share them in the comments below!