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Round 2: Planning Your Garden for Fall Harvest

At the time of this writing, we’re almost through the summer season and the weather is slowly transitioning to cooler temperatures. You can still put in crops that will give you a fall harvest if you know how to plan for it.

3 Keys to Planning a Successful Fall Harvest

Fall weather can suddenly shift and surprise us with chilly temperatures, leading to frost and cold snaps that might harm a garden. To help your fall harvest garden thrive,

let's explore 3 essential tips or "keys" for success:

October First Frost Zone 6
First Frost in October

Key One: Know Your First Frost Date

You should figure out the number of days left until the expected first frost date. This is not just about knowing how much time you have, but it will also help you pick the right plants that can grow well in that remaining time.

A great resource for frost dates is the Farmer's Almanac

Radish has short maturity days.
Cherry Belle Radish - 24 Day Maturity

Key Two: Plants and Maturity Days

Now that you have an idea of the approximate time frame to when your area will have frost, here are your next steps;

  • Choose plants that fit into what time you have left.

  • Count days backwards from frost date to current date.

  • Subtract 10 days from the number of days to give a general idea of what number of days to harvest will work.

I use 10 days to allow a buffer when slower germination or weather issues affect germination or growth of the plants.


Zone 6b: First Frost Date = Oct 15  
Number of Days between Aug 15 and 0ct 15 = 61 Days! 
61 days minus 10 days of buffer = 51 days
LOOK FOR plants that mature between 45-55 days!!!

*There is one exception! If I’m growing plants that tolerate the cold like kale, radish, broccoli, peas, etc. I can get away with a few extra days because they won’t be affected as much!

Seeds and seedlings in the garden
Garden planted with seeds and seedlings.

Key Three: Know to Direct Sow in the Garden or Start Seedlings Indoors

Knowing whether to put seeds directly into the soil or whether to plant a young plant can affect your success in the garden.

Direct Sow

"Direct sow" means planting seeds straight into the soil outdoors. This is usually done with seeds that are tough enough to handle outdoor weather and can sprout and grow on their own without needing special care indoors. It's also less stressful for certain plants because they don't need to be moved later, and it's a simple and handy way for gardeners to do their planting!

Starting Seedlings Indoors

Seedlings are young plants that were grown indoors from seed in a controlled environment before being transferred to an outdoor garden. This process allows the plants to not only develop a stronger root system but it also gives them a head start in growth before they face the challenges of the outdoor environment.

Check Out my video on "How to Start Seeds" below.

Fall Hardening Off

"Hardening Off" is a gardening process where you gradually acclimate your young plants or seedlings to outdoor conditions. By exposing them to outdoor elements like sunlight, wind, and temperature changes over a period of time, they become stronger and better able to handle the harsher conditions outside.

When you're getting plants ready for the cooler fall season, there are specific things you should watch out for during the hardening off process:

  • Temperature Variations:

In the fall, you are transitioning plants from warmer indoor conditions to cooler outdoor

conditions. Be mindful of the decreasing temperatures, especially during the evening and

nighttime. Gradually exposing plants to cooler temperatures helps them adjust and

prevents shock.

  • Reduced Sunlight:

The days are getting shorter in the fall which means there is less sunlight available.

Consider placing plants in locations that receive the most sunlight during the shorter

daylight hours.

  • Watch the Weather:

The fall season is consistently inconsistent as the temperatures transition from warm to

cool. Keep a close watch on the weather forecasts and be prepared to bring your plants

indoors or provide protective coverings in the garden if frost is expected.

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