5 Gardening Tips for Fall First-Timers

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With the cooler temperatures and changing leaves, fall is the perfect time to start a garden. If you're a first-time gardener, however, it can be tricky to know where to start. Here are five tips to help you get your garden off to a great start this fall.

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The most important thing to remember is to choose plants that are suited for the fall weather. Vegetables like lettuce, spinach, and broccoli can be planted in the fall, as well as root vegetables like carrots and radishes. Be sure to read up on the specific planting instructions for your region, since the weather can vary depending on where you live. With a little bit of preparation, you'll be able to enjoy fresh produce from your own garden all winter long.

1. When Should You Start Planting For Fall: Know Your Hardiness Zone

When it comes to planting for fall, the time of year depends on your hardiness zone. In general, vegetable gardens should be planted four to six weeks before the first frost in your area. However, you should always check the specific planting instructions for your region, since the weather can vary depending on where you live.

The United States is divided into hardiness zones, which range from 1 (the coldest) to 13 (the warmest). If you're not sure what your hardiness zone is, the USDA Hardiness Zone Map can help. Once you know your zone, you can choose plants that are known to do well in that climate. With a little bit of preparation, you'll be able to enjoy fresh produce from your own garden all winter long.

Cool weather crops: rainbow carrots, broccoli, kale, spinach

2. What To Start Planting In The Fall: Cool Weather Crops

The weather in your area can make a difference in which type of crops you can successfully grow in fall and into winter. This is why knowing your zone hardiness makes such a difference. If you haven't already figured your area out, make sure you check your zip code with the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

Let's go over the types of crops that can typically be planted in fall.

Frost Tolerant Fall Crops

When it comes to frost-tolerant fall crops, there are a few different options to choose from. Also known as Semi-hardy vegetables, these crops can survive light frosts in the 30–32˚F range.

A bushel of potatoes fresh from the ground
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Collards
  • Green onions
  • Potatoes
  • Bibb and leaf lettuce
  • Mustard
  • Parsnips
  • Radishes
  • Salsify
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard

Freeze Tolerant Fall Crops

Hardy vegetables are crops that can tolerate temperatures well below freezing, so they'll be able to withstand harsher winters. These hardy vegetables will continue to grow between freezes. These vegetables include:

Broccoli growing on the stalk
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Rutabagas
  • Turnips.

Fall Cover Crop

A cover crop is a good idea for those who are not wanting to have a full fall garden but instead want to make sure that their garden space is prepared for spring. A cover crop is a type of vegetable that is grown specifically to provide cover for the soil. This can be done in a number of ways – for example, some cover crops are grown specifically to suppress weed growth, while others are used to add nutrients back into the soil. Cover crops can also be used to protect the soil from erosion.

One of the benefits of using a cover crop is that it can help to improve soil quality. This is because cover crops help to break up the soil and add organic matter, which helps to improve drainage and water retention. Additionally, cover crops can help to suppress harmful pests and diseases.

If you're looking to add a cover crop to your garden, there are several different options to choose from. Some good choices include clover, ryegrass, and buckwheat. Be sure to read up on the specific planting instructions for your region, since the weather can vary depending on where you live.

Barley planted as a cover crop

3. Amend Your Soil: How To Prepare Your Soil For A Fall Garden

One of the most important things you can do for your garden is to amend your soil. This simply means adding organic matter to it like compost or manure. Amending your soil will help your plants grow bigger and healthier. If you are not using a cover crop then this step is extremely important.

Besides amending your soil what else needs to be done?

A wheelbarrow full of organic matter to lay on garden as mulch

4. Mulch And Fertilize Your Vegetable Garden In The Fall

In addition to amending your soil, you should also fertilize your plants on a regular basis. This will give them the nutrients they need to grow strong and produce bountiful harvests. However, be sure not to over-fertilize as this can damage your plants. Stick to organic fertilizers whenever possible, and follow the directions on the package carefully.

Mulching is a great way to both amend and fertilize your garden. Mulching your garden is a great way to keep your plants healthy and help them grow big and strong. Not only does mulching provide your plants with essential nutrients, but it also helps to keep the soil moist, protected from pests and diseases, and warm during cool weather.

One of the best things about mulching is that it's easy and inexpensive to do. You can use a variety of materials to mulch your garden, including leaves, straw, bark chips, and compost. Mulching is a simple way to take care of your garden, and's definitely something you should consider doing this fall.

A fall leaf  with different colors on the ground with a blurry watering can in the background.

5. Water Regularly

Last but not least, don't forget to water your plants. In the Fall plants typically don't need as much water as they do in the Summer, but they do still need water. They need about 1-2 inches of water per week, so be sure to check on them regularly and give them a good drink if they look thirsty. If you live in an area like the Pacific Northwest that gets rain often in Fall, you may not need to water your garden very much. If you notice any signs of pests or disease, be sure to address those right away as well.

Fall is a great time to start vegetable gardening. With these 5 tips, you should feel more comfortable preparing your Fall garden. The most important thing to remember is to choose plants that are suited for the fall weather. Be sure to read up on the specific planting instructions for your region, since the weather can vary depending on where you live. With a little bit of preparation, you'll be able to enjoy fresh produce from your own garden.

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