There’s nothing quite like heading outside first thing in the morning to tend to the garden. The warmth of the early day sun, the smell of freshly cut grass, and the lush green foliage waiting for your loving attention. If you're like us, this has been a daily rituals for months and you are probably already reaping a delicious harvest of tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and more.
If your family has been out of the gardening loop, have no fear, there’s still a few weeks left to sow your seeds in time for the fall harvest! While many people may associate a lush and robust garden with spring and summer, there are copious varieties of vegetables that prefer the cooler autumn months. This week, pinwheel Crafts will walk you through some gardening basics, great fall crops to sow right now, and some fun diy decor to add an extra dash of color to your garden plot. With any luck, you and your kids will be collecting your very own vegetables in no time!
If you’ve ever wanted to get into gardening, but quickly felt overwhelmed, we can definitely understand the feeling. There are so many types of crops, each with their own temperature, pH, and lighting preferences. To keep things simple, we’re going to stick with fairly beginner friendly crops that are lower maintenance.
Planters or yard?
If you have the space, a backyard provides great square footage to sow row after row of a variety of crops. This does, however, require a fair amount of work, and can be very difficult depending on the soil quality where you live. Because of this, we definitely recommend that new gardeners use above ground planters. It is easier to control the soil quality of the plants, as well as move them if they need to be shaded or reduce water intake from rainfall.
We like fabric grow bags because they help roots from trying to outgrow the planter by mimicking natural water distribution and evaporation that happens in the ground. The downside is that the aeration allows the soil to dry more quickly, so you may need to water a bit more. Of course, if you prefer ceramic pots, or simple plastic nursery planters, they will work just as well.
If you want to reuse plastic containers from around the house, make sure to be careful as some chemicals can leech into the soil and find their way into your vegetable plants. A simple rule of thumb is that if it’s food grade plastic (food packaging), it’s likely safe for gardening purposes. This includes things like water bottles, yogurt containers, and milk jugs. Just cut the top off and drill a few drainage holes in the bottom, and you’ve got a little earth conscious planter!
If you DO decide to plant in the ground, make sure to till the soil first. You will also want to consider mixing in compost and topsoil into the ground. Once your plants start to grow, you will also want to apply a layer of mulch to cut down on pests and disease.
Pests and pH
Every plant is a little different, but most domestic garden plants prefer pH levels between 5.5-7. We use a meter in our garden to check the pH on a weekly basis and use pH control fluids to adjust the soil as needed. You can find pH testing and control kits online from a host of different suppliers.
As for pest, again, every plant has its own set of diseases and insects that can destroy them. Using a planter on a porch can help mitigate the presences of a lot of disease spores and insect eggs. A weekly application of Neem Oil is also an easy way to organically fend off a variety of pests and mold spores.
Fall Plant Varieties
What you can plant will really depend on what growing zone you are in. The continental United States hardiness zones vary from zone 3 all the way up to zone 11 (in some parts of Florida). The zones help determine things like first and last front, months of sun light, and other things important for garden planning. The lower the number, the colder it is during the most of the year, so if you live in zone 4 or less, your growing season will end sooner, so you will want to stick with crops that have a short harvest time. If you live in zone 8 and above, you can push it a little further and pick longer growing crops as it’ll be much later in the year before you are in danger of frost advisories. And with that, let’s get on with the list!
Salad Lovers Delight!
If you love salad, or dishes that involve fresh greens, then now is the PERFECT time to get into gardening. Salad staples love cool weather and do great in fall gardens. This includes crops like lettuce, kale, collards, and radicchio!
This spicy little root is great for impatient gardeners in the house. They are tolerant of cooler temps and have a short harvest time (usually 4-6 weeks). It’s a great crop to help get your children interested in gardening as they will be collecting their first harvest in a matter of weeks!
Carrots are a delightfully sweet and crunchy treat. It’s a great option for picky eaters, and a fairly simple crop to grow in your backyard or containers. Just make sure you sow your seeds directly into the dirt you will pick them from. Transplanting carrots can lead to bent an unsightly roots. Choose a petite variety, like Little Finger, for a speedy harvest and you’ll have your kids begging to get back out to the garden before you know it.
Peas and Beans
Whether you love sugar snap peas raw, or love freshly steamed sweet peas, all varieties thrive in autumn gardens. The same goes for beans (green and gold alike). Just make sure you have some posts and twine to tie the plants to in order to provide additional support.
So, you’ve got a bunch of veggies growing. How are you going to prepare them after the harvest? Lucky for you, there are also plenty of flavorful herbs that do well in the cooler months of fall. While not an extensive list, things like parsley, cilantro, chives, and lemon balm do well in fall and are great options for growing in containers.
Custom Garden Planters
If you’re looking fort a fun project to help your kids get into the gardening spirit, take a moment to check out the Pinwheel Crafts flower pot kit. These small containers are perfect for sowing seeds before transplanting, or growing small varieties like herbs, flowers, and micro greens! You can follow the designs provided, or even use them to create this awesome dragon design. Let your kids use their imaginations to create something that will help them want to get out in the garden every day.
Are you ready to get out there?
Well, how did we do? Are you feeling sufficiently inspired to start digging around in the dirt? If you’re not fond of the veggies on our list, check your local seed provider and give whatever strikes your fancy a chance. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and Google gardening tips often (because here is a lot of great information out there).
Until next time, happy crafting (and gardening)!