As we are leaving summer and entering the fall season, both novice and experienced gardeners are planning their fall vegetable gardens. Whether you’re growing vegetables in a pot in your home or freshening up your backyard garden, it’s important to know that a fall vegetable garden needs to be managed differently than a spring garden.
The good news is that a well-prepared garden can ensure a bountiful harvest in due course, said Skip Richter, horticultural agent for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Richter, who also moderates Garden Success, gives the top tips for a successful autumn vegetable garden on KAMU FM / HD-1.
Sunlight for autumn vegetables
One of the most important things for a vegetable garden is learning how much sunlight your plants need. Vegetable gardens should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight, unobstructed by shade from larger objects nearby.
“Plants and plants grown for their roots and fruits should be planted in areas that receive the most sunlight,” he said. “If you need to plant a little more in the shade, do it with your leafy vegetables, which can tolerate a little less sunlight.”
Healthy soil for a healthy garden
Soil quality is another important factor when planning a strong vegetable garden, Richter said.
“By the time you plant your first plant, you’re 75 percent on the road to success or failure,” he said. “At this point you have either prepared a good soil for your plants or not.”
If you are unsure about the quality or health of your soil, you can consider taking a soil test. Soil tests will help you understand the exact composition of your soil. Texans who want to know more about their soil composition can order a soil test from AgriLife Extension.
One of the easiest ways to build healthier soil is to supplement it with a store-bought or homemade compost mixture. Compost is made up of organic material that has broken down into a soil-like substance.
“Organic matter in the soil is a must for a garden to thrive,” said Richter. “Compost helps sandy soils to store more water and nutrients, and among other things it helps to better drain clay soils and improves ventilation.”
If your soil has poor drainage, raised beds can help plants thrive even during periods of excessive rain.
When to grow vegetables in the autumn
Fall gardeners can create the conditions for a bountiful harvest by choosing the best vegetables for their regions and planting them at the right time.
“In Texas, our fall season can be short between the blistering heat of summer and the first frost of winter,” he said. “So we want things that harvest quickly and you want to choose plants that are well adapted to your region.”
AgriLife Extension’s Fall Vegetable Variety Selector provides detailed information to help you select the best variety for each area of Texas. Richter also recommended reaching out to the county’s AgriLife Extension offices for more fall gardening support.
It is important to know when vegetables are grown depending on the region. Check out the planting guide for recommended planting dates in Texas at https://tx.ag/FallGardenGuide.
Tips for a successful autumn harvest
- Plan enough sunlight.
- Give roots and fruits the most sun.
- Use leafy vegetables in the sun or in slightly more shady garden areas.
- Improve your soil with compost.
- Choose regionally adapted plants.
- Visit your county’s AgriLife Extension office for more help.
- Check out the online guide to the Fall Vegetable Garden.