Fall Garden and What I've Learned This Year

My fall garden is a bust.

This is the first year I've planted a fall garden. It's always been so hot when it was time to plant that the date would sail right past me. Who wanted to be out in the heat, pulling weeds, preparing seed beds, and sweating?

I planted late this spring for several reasons. The lettuce, onions, and beets I planted in the late spring did well, but I was too late to plant the cabbage, broccoli, peas and more that I wanted to grow.

So I planned a fall garden. I planted turnips, spinach, more beets, more lettuce and planned to add more to it. The weather was hot and humid with temperatures in the high 90's and low 100's. Evidently it was too hot for those cool-weather seeds to germinate, because they didn't.

The lettuce sprouted and is growing pretty well. Like in the spring, I planted the seeds in a tub near the orchard so that they are in partial shade, which kept the temperature down. The tub already contained the cayenne pepper plant and a dark opal basil plant, which further shaded the seedlings. I grew onions in this particular tub in the spring.

I have one lonely little spinach plant in the tub where I grew spring lettuce.

I've come to the conclusion that growing in containers is easier than growing in the ground, at least where I live. I've amended the garden but evidently not enough; the containers are filled with rich black dirt, compost from the bedding we cleaned out of the goat shed several years ago, but I'd need a lot more than I have to spread on the garden. Plus there's the difference in weeds: there are fewer weeds in containers and they are much easier to pull. My garden is covered in bermuda grass that would be beautiful if it were in my pasture.

But in order to grow enough to fill our needs, I'd need a whole lot of containers!

Spring lettuce and onions

I learned that one tub of lettuce isn't enough. The bed of beets I planted in the spring provided three side dishes plus some beet greens. I need to plant a lot more than I did this year, not more varieties but more quantity. Maybe my answer is raised beds and containers.

Arkansas Traveler tomato plant

If I dig down into the ground along the fenceline and bury some corrugated tin panels about six inches down, would that help keep the bermuda runners from getting into the garden?

My tomato plants gave up in August; I've never had that happen before. I think I planted just about the right number of them, and if they'd continued to produce I'd be happy with the amount of tomatoes this year. The one and only Arkansas Traveler plant has some nearly-ready-to-change-color tomatoes on it finally, so I will have some fall tomatoes hopefully.

I planted Jepeto sweet peppers and red bell peppers. The sweet peppers are still producing like crazy, but the red bells aren't as productive as the variety I grew last year. My paprika pepper plant (just one) is finally putting on some fruit, and the little cayenne peppers are turning red. Next year I'll plant those in a sunnier place; they did better when the weather finally got hot so they might have been too cold in the current location.

My carrots and beans were eaten by grasshoppers. I need some screen covers for those plants - maybe for my entire garden!

I also learned that I'm planting my onion sets too deep. I thought I was planting pretty shallow, but next year I will let them peek out of the soil. I think my beets were planted too deep too, although I thought I barely covered the seeds with soil. I need to be more frugal with the soil.

Even though seed packets might say "plant in full sun," the sun is so hot here in central Oklahoma that some full sun plants do better with a little shade. I'm still experimenting with which ones need to go where. I have basil plants in both places for instance, and the two plants in afternoon shade are much fuller and have bigger leaves.

Monster-sized basil leaves

In spite of the fact that I didn't grow as much as I wanted to and tried to grow this year, I've learned a great deal so it wasn't wasted effort. I'm not very good at keeping detailed notes, but I do write down things I've learned in retrospect.

How about you? Do you keep detailed notes as the season goes by?

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. The only notes I keep are my blog posts, Kathi. I do keep a 'map' of where things are planted with corrections as the year goes along. I use it to rotate the crops from year to year.

    It looks like you have learned a lot this year. Thank you for the tour.


  2. Fern, my "notes" are taken from my blog posts. I do write them down on paper though, because one day my blog might disappear into cyberspace against my will. Things happen!

  3. Oh golly, well maybe I've done the right thing by not planting my fall garden yet, lol. I keep meaning to, and it just keeps getting pushed to the back burner!

    If you're going to dig down around the garden anyway, I would do more than 6 inches. Bermuda is crazy tenacious stuff. Good luck!!

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  5. You're probably right, Rose. If I'm going to dig around the fence anyway, I might as well do it right. Bermuda grass is crazy aggressive!

    It's not too late (depending on where you live) to plant a few fall things. root vegetables will overwinter, I think. Lettuce and radishes are fast crops.

  6. Your basil looks wonderful! Our fall garden just got started, as we are still having temps in the 80's and 90's. Hard to believe this is the first day of fall! That's how it is here in Central Florida.

    I couldn't agree more with your idea that nothing is wasted, as long as you learn from the experience.
    I keep notes whenever I resow or harvest, but not much more than that. It is helpful to see how things did the year before so that we can become better gardeners.
    Enjoy your day!

  7. Thank you, Daisy. I hope your fall garden is a huge success.

  8. Kathi we have a big problem with bermuda runners getting in our garden as well! That was a great tip on how to keep them out!

  9. I hope it's a great tip, Tracy. I plan to give it a try as soon as the weather cools down a bit, so we'll see how it goes. Thank you for visiting.

  10. I love keeping a garden journal. It helps me so much each year! Thanks for sharing your fall gardening adventures!

  11. Angi, I know that many people like to keep detailed notes throughout the gardening season. I've tried, but I just don't keep on top of it.

  12. I do keep notes (most of them are memory notes, but a few make it to paper.)

    My son T LOVES to garden! He's in college now, but he taught me the valuable lesson of experimenting every year. And I do.

    The other thing I try to do (don't always get it done) is keep a notebook with a page for each thing in the garden. I jot down the name of the plant, where the seed came from (company or saved), how long to germinate, how long to harvest, etc. If I still have the seed packet, I attach that.

    Then I document when I planted the seeds, when they started fruiting, and just general notes about how things went.

    I have been holding off on planting the garlic due to the heat. Waiting to rehab a bed for the winter greens.

    Just curious, do the metal containers add heat to the soil? The tomatoes and the peppers probably love it, but maybe not the lettuce?

  13. Sara, it sounds like you keep quite detailed notes and it probably is very handy.

    You could be right about the metal containers adding too much heat to the soil. I had a really good spring lettuce crop in them, but that's when we want warmer soil. They may have kept the soil temperatures too high for late summer sprouting. On the other hand, they do keep the soil nice and evenly damp (they do have drainage holes). I only have two of these, my other containers are non-metal.


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