Is it Too Late to Start a Garden?

There’s no better feeling than getting the itch to plant something in the ground and watching it grow. Even if you’re too busy or you’re a beginner, it’s never too late to start a garden! It’s never too late to start a vegetable or herb garden. You can even start a tomato garden. You’ll soon realize that you’ve missed out on the fun and gratification that comes with gardening.

Planting Fall Crops Later Than Recommended

The days are getting shorter and the nights are becoming cooler. In order to make the most of the cooler temperatures, you should plant fall crops earlier in the year. Most vegetables will grow best during the fall months. In Zones 8-10, you can plant fall crops as late as December. However, if you are planting tomatoes, you should wait until mid-December to plant them. This will allow them to mature before the first frost.

Regardless of your local climate, the timing of fall crops is critical. For many crops, it is best to plant them in the peak of summer. While planting late in August is possible, a few of the more popular varieties won’t be ready until late September. These fall crops will need several months of ideal growing conditions in order to mature before frost and low light levels set in. Fortunately, this isn’t necessary in most climates, and you can plant a variety of vegetables and fruits in late August if you have a sunny location with excellent ventilation and light levels.

Fall vegetables and fruits are more resistant to frost, so they can be planted earlier in the spring. They will survive light frosts, but hard freezes can be destructive. If you’re planning to plant fall crops, make sure to prepare the soil well before you begin planting them. Adding a light layer of compost to the soil and fertilizer to the soil can help replenish the nutrients that summer crops stripped from the soil.

Preparing For a Fall Garden

The fall season in the garden can be especially delightful. You may have harvested all your summer’s harvest, and your perennials are blushing with color and dropping leaves. The annual vegetables are nearing the end of their life cycle and are starting to succumb to the successively heavier frosts. Now it is time to close the garden gate and get ready for the winter. After all, you have done all the heavy lifting in spring and summer and reaped all the benefits. But what should you do?

To get a head start on the fall garden chores, start by cleaning your garden beds. You may have let your garden get out of hand during the summer months. Maybe you missed family vacations or summer vacations and didn’t notice how cluttered your garden was. Remove any dead plants and dispose of any fallen fruit. Don’t forget to compost any garden debris. Composting will not only declutter your garden but also prevent weeds from growing.

If you don’t have an existing garden, prepare your fall planting area by laying down a layer of newspaper. Next, spread a layer of organic matter on the ground, preferably a compost or manure. The organic matter should cover all the surface growth, and it should prevent weeds and other undesirable weeds from growing there. Finally, remember to test your soil before planting anything. You may not be able to plant something until six weeks before the first hard freeze.

Planting Bare Root Plants

When you buy bare root plants, make sure you keep them moist in a bucket. Although they are usually dormant, they are not exposed to any moisture when they are lifted. The biggest risk of bare root plants is drying out. A bucket of water can keep a bare root plant alive for two to five days. Be sure to lift the roots each day and water them.

Soak bare root plants in a bucket of water for at least an hour before planting them in the soil. If the soil isn’t workable, you can place them in containers. Make sure they are at least an inch below the surface of the soil. Fertilize the soil around the roots with fish emulsion or other organic fertilizer. After that, you can water your new garden.

Bare root plants should have their roots soaked and will send out feeder roots after a week or so. You should water them whenever the soil feels dry. Once they’ve started to leaf out, you can ease off on watering. If you get less than an inch of rainfall per week, watering may be necessary only when the soil feels dry. This will help you get a beautiful garden in no time!

Planting Seeds

The first step in preparing for a garden is knowing when to plant. Depending on the time of year, planting dates in northern Illinois and southern Illinois can be several weeks earlier than those in the middle. The temperature in these regions will vary wildly, as will the time it takes for certain plants to reach maturity. For example, you may plant tomatoes in January and have them ready for harvest in May.

If you’ve missed planting in the spring, you may want to plant vegetables now. Although there are a few types of vegetables that will need 90 days or more to mature, you can plant those now. Most vegetables can be harvested between 50 and 75 days after seedling. Try starting your garden in April and see how it grows! Depending on your location, you may even want to plant some seeds of other vegetables or wildflowers.

Another way to start a garden is to start with simple plants. Most simple plants finish growing in about 50 to 60 days. The days to maturity on seed packets refer to when you can harvest them. If you’re a beginner gardener, try to focus on shorter and medium-sized plants. You can transplant them later on to a larger plot. Those who’ve never tried gardening are sure to have a hard time.

Starting a Container Garden

Although it may seem too late for a traditional vegetable garden, you can still get started with a container garden. Even if you live in a freezing area, container gardens can be started indoors and will continue to produce well into fall. Container gardens can be started with transplants and moved outside in the spring. They are more likely to be successful if you choose hardy plants and good soil.

Fertilize regularly. Plants need nutrition to grow, and you can mix organic granular fertilizer into the soil before you plant the seeds. To give plants additional nutrition, you can also add liquid fish emulsion or seaweed every two to three weeks. Make sure the soil in your container is moist but not soggy so that water spills. Keeping the soil moist is the best way to ensure a healthy garden.

Plant cool-season crops like beets and kale. You can also grow cabbage and cauliflower if the weather is cool. If you’re starting in the fall, you can even plant some winter-hardy plants like peas and carrots before the ground freezes. They will still need plenty of heat to grow, but you can still start them indoors.