Fall is one of my favorite times of year, especially in the garden. When I first started growing vegetables, I struggled to find things that would grow well in the fall and I wasn't sure when I should actually be planting things. It took a couple years of experimenting before I finally figured out a few little tips that helped my fall garden become successful. Let's break down everything you need to know about fall gardening.
What can you plant in fall?
Think of fall as a second chance at spring planting. Plant crops that like cool temperatures. I have found that some of the cold-hardy veggies actually grow better for me in the fall than they do in the spring. Vegetables that grow well in fall temperatures include peas, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, collard greens, lettuce, carrots, beets, and radishes.
When should you plant for fall?
Timing is the trickiest part of fall gardening. You will need to look up your estimated first frost date and then count to see around how many days you have left before frost starts to roll into your area at night. For example, my estimated first frost is October 30 so I have around 75-80 days left. As I look through my seed packs, I can plant anything that will grow in that amount of time even if it is frost-tender. You can also add cold-loving vegetables like the ones mentioned above to round out your garden and have additional options that will survive those frosty nights.
When do you start seeds for fall gardening?
You can certainly start seeds indoors in a sunny window or under grow lights, but for fall, I prefer to just sow seeds directly into my garden beds. As summer comes to an end, I am starting to clean out the plants that are done producing for the year. Then I amend the beds by adding a fresh inch or two of compost before I replant. Just remember to keep your seeds watered. Soil dries out quickly in the late summer sun.
Don't forget to mulch!
Fall provides an abundance of free mulch for the garden. All of those leaves that you hate to rake are actually a gift! Use them to mulch your garden. I also put a layer of straw over my garden beds when I plant for fall, just to add some extra insulation for winter time. We have pine trees all around the perimeter of our property and I love to use the fallen pine needles as free mulch too. Throughout the fall and winter, I add any kind of organic matter to the garden beds that I can find - fallen leaves, wood chips, straw, pine needles. All of it will break down through the winter time and create a beautiful, healthy soil for spring planting. Plus your fall and winter veggies will thrive with the extra mulch to keep the root systems warm and protected.
Extend Your Growing Season with Row Covers
Another option for fall is to prolong your growing season by using row covers to insulate your plants. Row covers are also a smart way to combat insect problems, particularly with leafy greens and brassicas that often struggle with cabbage worms. If you are growing in pots, you can also extend your growing season by moving plants inside at night to protect them from falling temperatures.
Planting Garlic in Fall
Fall is also the time to plant garlic for next year. We plant garlic cloves in October, mulch well, and then leave the garlic beds undisturbed until spring. At that point, we will start watering a few times a week and weeding the beds as needed. By late June, we have garlic ready to harvest, cure, and braid. In my experience, garlic is one of the easiest things to grow! It just takes a long time so don't forget to get some garlic to plant this fall. You can order garlic online through Hoss Tools, Johnnys Seeds, or even Amazon. I recommend elephant garlic for beginners. Hardneck garlic is wonderful because it produces scapes before the bulbs are ready so you get two edible harvests. Softneck garlic doesn't give you scapes, but it is easy to braid after it dries. Choose the type of garlic you like best, but make sure you plant some! Growing garlic is one of my favorite parts of backyard gardening.
Are you planting a fall garden this year? What vegetables do you plan to grow this fall?
Things I don’t buy at the store anymore…
1. Tomato Sauce & Salsa - pasta sauce, pizza sauce, diced tomatoes for chili… it’s all from the garden now.
2. Canned Beans - I can my own at home now and I still get the convenience of opening a jar, but it’s way cheaper.
3. Pickles - we make a variety of pickles from sweet to sour to spicy. So we no longer need to buy these.
4. Jams and Jellies - we make our own with local fruit! 👏🏻
5. Canned Veggies - from garden to canner… we eat #homegrown all year.
6. Broths and Stocks - I can my own broth and stock. And it’s way easier and cheaper than I ever really thought it could be.
7. Canned Soup - I make and can my own!
I’m not sharing any of this to brag. I’m sharing it because I’m realizing that small changes add up to BIG results over time. I might not be farming hundreds of acres, but I’m stewarding 3 acres well. I’m learning to work with the land to feed my family. I’m learning something new everyday.
What’s one skill you really want to focus on learning or improving in 2022?
I turned my backyard into a garden and was shocked at the sheer volume of vegetables we can grow in a single season. Here’s how we maximize space and make the most of our backyard garden.
1. GROW VERTICALLY - You can grow more volume when you focus on growing up. We use livestock fence panels from Tractor Supply and shape them into arches between the garden beds and walls to line the garden perimeter. I have a highlight on the trellises we use and how they are installed on our Instagram page. 😉
2. GROW SEASONALLY - When I planted my first garden, I assumed there was one single garden season and I planted all the things I wanted to grow at once. That’s why I failed. Gardening is best done by the seasons. Some vegetables prefer cooler weather and do well in spring or fall (cabbage, peas, broccoli, lettuce, etc). Others do best in early summer (beans, cucumbers, kale) and still other love the mid and late summer heat (tomatoes, peppers, etc). When you plant in the right season, your harvest will improve drastically.
3. GROW IN SUCCESSION. Try succession planting to extend your harvests. Instead of planting all the green beans at once. Plant a section and then wait and plant another in two weeks. I sow new green beans and cucumbers several times through the warm season to keep them producing all summer long.
What’s your favorite garden tip? Let’s share all our best tricks in the comments and help each other grow!
Pumpkin pie cobbler is a fun twist on a classic Thanksgiving dish. It's a rich and filling dessert that is always a hit when I take it to parties and potlucks. I recently shared photos of this simple cobbler on Instagram and got dozens of requests for the recipe, so here it is. I hope pumpkin pie cobbler will find a place on your table this Thanksgiving season.
1 - 30 ounce can of pumpkin pie mix
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks butter (melted)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Make your filling:
Combine all the filling ingredients in a large bowl and stir until smooth and blended. Pour into a cast iron skillet. (You could also use a glass baking dish, but I love using cast iron. If you're new to cast iron, here's a good starter cast iron skillet like the one I used in this recipe).
Make your topping:
Add the dry ingredients to a bowl and mix with a fork. Pour in the melted butter and mix until it forms a crumbly texture. Sprinkle the crumb topping all over the pumpkin filling.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top is gold brown. Enjoy!
If you try the recipe, leave a comment and let me know what you think. I hope you love this one as much as we do!
Growing medicinal herbs in the home garden can unlock a whole new world of benefits for your mental and physical health. Adding herbs to the home garden is easy and many of them are perennial so you don’t have to replant them year after year. Some of the most popular medicinal herbs for home use include:
When you first begin learning about herbs, it can be overwhelming. There are so many websites and books about medicinal herbs available today, but in my experience, very few of them are aimed at total beginners. So today, I want to break down some simple herb preparation methods you can use in your home garden to take advantage of the healing properties of herbs … no experience needed!
Method #1 - Brew Your Own Herbal Tea
Making tea is the easiest method to start using your homegrown medicinal herbs. A strong brewed tea can be helpful to treat a variety of health concerns. Peppermint leaves can be used to make a tea that boosts your mood and eases a headache. Lemon balm is an excellent plant to use for tea brewing and it can level out your mood and calm anxiety.
You can make DIY herbal tea with both fresh and dried leaves. If you are using fresh herbs, you’ll need around 3 or 4 large leaves for a cup of tea. Rinse your herbs off gently in cold water and then put them in your mug of choice. Pour hot water on top and let the herbs steep in the water for 5-7 minutes, depending how strong you like your tea.
If you’re working with dried leaves, you will need an infuser or a tea ball. This is the tea ball that I use regularly (bonus - it’s pretty inexpensive!). Fill the tea ball with your dried leaves and then place it in the mug and pour in hot water. Let it steep for 5-7 minutes, or until it is the strength you prefer.
Just a quick word of caution - some home brewed herbal teas can be bitter. You can counteract this by adding a spoonful of raw honey, which contains numerous health benefits of its own.
Method #2 - Make a Poultice
Using medicinal herbs in a poultice allows you to directly apply the herbs topically. To try this method, crush the herbs up and mash them into a paste and then spread it directly onto the skin. Cover the area with gauze or muslin to hold the poultice in place. You can adjust the temperature of the poultice depending on how you are using it. A warm poultice will boost circulation while a cold poultice is best if you are trying to soothe inflammation. While most people reach for salves for topical applications, a poultice is actually more beneficial because you are using fresh herbs with the fullest benefits.
Method #3 - Make an Infusion
To create your own herbal infusion, you follow the same steps as if you were making tea, but allow it to steep for a much longer amount of time. Instead of 5-7 minutes, you might let the herbs steep for a full 24 hours to get maximum concentration of medicinal herb benefits from your homemade brew.
Method #4 - Create a Medicinal Syrup
You’ve probably heard of elderberry syrup, which has a near cult following for its healing benefits for the immune system. Medicinal syrups are a great way to use herbs when you have kids who aren’t likely to drink a typical herbal tea or infusion. Making syrups starts by boiling your herbs down in a decoction and then adding a sweetener. Here’s a great tutorial on how to make elderberry syrup.
Method #5 - Make a Tincture
Did you know you might already have a tincture hiding in your spice cabinet? Vanilla extract is very common tincture that many home cooks keep on hand. Tinctures are made by steeping herbs in alcohol or vinegar. I’ve found that the shelf life is superior if you use alcohol - a cheap vodka works perfectly. Tinctures are shelf stable and you can take them as a shot or add them into syrups.
Method #7 - Make an Herbal Steam Pot
One of the easiest ways to use medicinal herbs is through steam. Add herbs to a pot of water and bring it to a simmer on the stove. As it simmers, the steam will be infused with all the wonderful benefits of your herbs and your house will smell amazing. This is one of my favorite methods for using peppermint to combat sinus congestion. Stand over the steam and breathe deeply for a quick sinus cleanse.
These 7 ways to use medicinal herbs from the home garden will get you started on the journey of herbalism. If you would like to learn more, make sure you sign up for my newsletter to get monthly tips sent straight to your inbox (and no spam - I promise!).