{FALL} in Love with the Garden Again // Autumn Gardening is Sweeter

The unrelenting heat streak ends.

We just came through 54 days of 90°+ weather.

But finally yesterday afternoon, a cool breeze started blowing and an amazing real-life, puddle-making rain fell in gushes.  It was wonderful!  Here I sit again, listening to thunder roll while lightning flashes and the rain is pouring-pouring-pouring, almost too much for my little gardens to contain, but again n the morning, how they’ll shine.

Ten years ago this week we celebrated the joyous marriage ceremony of Dave & Tara (Rhoades) Powers with a morning snow-spit, followed by a beautiful, sunny day that rose to brilliance shining through the late afternoon stained glass windows at the church, ending in a brisk, chilly evening with an outdoor marriage feast.  You had to dance if you wanted to stay warm.   :)

Colorado can be that way.  I have lost my tomatoes to a freeze on the last day of summer, and I have harvested the last of my tomatoes the week of Thanksgiving.  In the Mile Hi City, you just never know!

So, in good faith and lots of hope, I have planted some brand new zucchini and squash seedlings, even though they are quite tender.  It really isn’t likely that I’ll get anything from them, but on the outside chance that these deep, soaking rains get followed by some gorgeous sunshine, even these tender plants may thrive.

True, zucchini and straightneck squash are tenders, meant for summer only in this northern zone. So besides the summer crops which will still be producing for a while now, God willing and I tend well (things like cucumbers, green beans, spaghetti squash, tomatoes, herbs, various peppers and tomatillos), fall is great time to grow so many other things that will actually thrive in the cooler evening temps.

In fact – here is a short list of why gardening in autumn is so wonderful that even if you didn’t garden this past summer, you can and should go ahead and make a 4 x 4 box (Square-Foot Gardening) and garden this fall!

  1. The growing season will be short, so the time investment isn’t a concern and you probably won’t be on an extended vacation because the kids are back in school.  There went those excuses.
  2. If you’re planning to learn to garden in the spring, you’ll get a successful head start now and a few small success will charge you up for spring 2014!
  3. Seeds will germinate pretty quickly right now because there is some warmth in that soil.
  4. The crops will mature more slowly because of the shortening days, which will make it less overwhelming.
  5. My son-in-law Tristan swears my home-grown kale is waaaaaaaay better than any store-bought, even organic.    As are almost all homegrown things, really.  They don’t always look so perfect and pretty, but they aren’t full of chemicals and pesticides.

My current philosophy: start small, but start!

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Here are a few of the things you plant in your fall garden that will keep on feeding your family for a few months:

Kale!  Easy to grow and 2 plants this last couple of months just kept producing more and more leaves all summer.  I’d give a bag away to one of the kids, 2 days later another bag to a different kid, plus all I needed!  I have 4 new kale plants started (2 weeks ago) to keep us going and since it can even withstand a snowstorm or two, I plan on (hope-hope-hope) to have my own kale surrounding my roasted turkey come November.  1 kale plant per 12 x 12″ square.  Plant seeds immediately or check the garden centers for seedlings that are established.

kale late july kale

Radishes.  Plant now.  They germinate in a couple of days because of the warmth of the soil, but prefer this cool nights.  Word to the wise, only plant 16 radishes per square foot.  How many do you actually really eat weekly?  Want more?  Plant another foot of them next week, and the next.  You can plant them safely each week until close to final frost.  I’ll keep going until late September for sure.

radishes late august garden radish

Lettuces, spinach, mesclun mix, carrots.  These germinate quickly in a Dixie-cup for later sowing outside.  Fresh salads!

Beets, broccoli, Swiss Chard, cabbages – all great choices, too, if you have seedlings.  Our garden centers don’t carry much by this time of year and I didn’t start new ones in July when I should have.

I plan to keep sowing seeds for at least another week.  When these rainy afternoons pass and that sun gets blazing hot again, my garden will be bountiful and fruitful even as the leaves start changing colors!

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