There are so many things to take into consideration as you are preparing your garden for fall. As first frost comes near, you need to decide if you will be covering your plants and letting them grow, or pulling everything. If you decide to cover everything, you’ll want old sheets and blankets or a row cover- they will protect your vegetables from 2 °C to -2 or -3°C. A hard frost or killing frost happens when the temperature reaches -5° C or lower. All plants have varying levels of frost tolerance so it is important to know which can, and which cannot withstand cold temperatures.
Frost Tolerant Vegetables:
- collard greens
- Swiss chard
- asian greens (bok choi, pak choi, etc.)
- Brussel sprout
NOTE: Generally, anything underground, will tolerate up to heavy frost(sweet potatoes
Fall Seed Starting:
It’s never too late to plant seeds in the garden – except when it is covered by snow! Sowing seeds between first killing frost and total snow cover is a great way to get an early start in the spring. Sow the seeds once the risk of germination has passed (temperatures consistently below 5°C). When you pre-seed your garden, you are allowing Mother Nature to have control over when the seeds germinate. This results in earlier seed germination in the spring, and hardier plants.
Pre-seeding works best in colder climates where the ground stays frozen consistently through the winter. Climates with regular freeze and thaw cycles could cause early germination.
- Prepare the bed in the fall by clearing away plant matter and working some fresh compost into the soil.
- As the air and soil temperatures drop, direct sow at the depth that is recommended on your seed packets.
- Water well, and cover with an inch or two of straw or mulch. This will keep the ground from thawing in case temperatures are warm.
Seeds you can pre-seed in fall:
While you’re at it don’t forget to plant your garlic and any flower bulbs you are wanting to plant. The perfect time to do this is also between first frost and full freezing.
You can also plant/ transplant trees and perennials up to 6 weeks before your ground freezes solid. If you’ve been considering moving something that’s already a part of your landscape, fall is a great time to do it. Once the ground is frozen, root growth slows and the plant enters dormancy. That six week window gives the plant time to get established enough to withstand cold and snow.
Be sure to give everything lots of water and consider covering in mulch. Mulch helps to regulate soil temperatures and is important for protecting trees, perennials and bulbs during their dormancy period.