What’s Happening In The Garden This Fall

I know many people who claim that Fall is their most desired season of the four that we are lucky to get here in the Midwest. A time when the leaves on trees change to an assortment of beautiful yellows, oranges, and reds. When the temperature starts to cool off at night and daylight becomes shorter. And a time, of course, for watching football games and having a few final season bonfires. I totally understand why there is such allure for Fall, and from a gardener’s perspective it often is a season of both sadness and relief that the growing season is coming to an end.

For me it generally is a race against time to get everything done before truly harsh weather comes in. Dwindling temperatures and early snows can make next seasons garden preparations more of a nuisance than enjoyable. But as always, the groundwork for next season’s success happens now. So what am I doing to get things ready?

First, living in the Midwest it’s important to realize that fruit trees are not only beneficial to humans in how they produce fruit, but they are also great for animals in that the bark is a source of food for small game like rabbits and mice. The trunk is also a relief to a buck whose antlers have just shed their velvet and might be looking for a place to rub them against and show dominance. From first hand experience, your tree is no match for an itchy buck. Because of this, it is important for the survival of my fruit trees to get protection on them as early as September. Mesh or wire placed around the base of the tree to keep out the smaller rodents and plastic tree wrap to act as a shield against deer. I’ve even circled the tree with stakes and fencing to provide a buffer zone from snacking Cervidae.

Along with setting up defenses, I use fall as a time to clean up my garden beds from this growing season and add amendments plus fresh compost for next year. Getting these down early will allow time for them to break down and soak in. When I say break down, much of my compost is homemade and not ground down to a fine material like you would see at a home and garden store. Spreading it early enough gives the compost plenty of time to break apart and, come Spring, look like I paid a pretty penny for it.

Bed Cleared

Compost Added

As far as amendments go, I have your usual “medicine cabinet” full of rock dust, ground seaweed, and worm castings. Enough to get next years plants the nutrients it needs for the entire growing season.

Along with those that I know who prefer the Fall season, there are plenty more who dislike it for the sole reason of leaves. Trees tend to dump thousands of leaves to the ground during this time of the year and most decide to either bag them up and let the city take them or they burn piles. Either way this tends to require back breaking work raking on a windy Saturday or Sunday afternoon unless you have bagging equipment. If you are a gardener however, there is another way to dispose of leaves.

I’m guessing you’ve heard the phrase “money doesn’t fall from trees”? As a gardener, I beg to differ. Tree leaves are as good as gold when it comes to compost making. Leaves, when combined with grass clippings or green waste from your garden beds, break down into nutrient rich compost that plants will love. If you don’t have a compost pile, just adding leaves on top of your beds will allow worms and other insects to break them down and turn it into loamy soil without you having to do any extra work. We did that this year on our 10 x 10 bed and you can’t even tell that there were leaves there to begin with. Use your leaves!

Here in my garden, we still have a few things going strong through the fall season. Carrots and parsnips in fact, continue to grow and get sweeter as the weather gets colder.

Our lettuce has no problem holding up to the Fall weather.

And our cabbages were doing well, however it’s as if every insect and bird has decided to sample the leaves and they are looking more like Swiss Cheese.

It has been a while since I’ve posted and we had just received our rental flock of chickens for the year in one of the last posts. The four girls have been working hard for us, eating insects, vegetable scraps, and laying eggs. So many eggs! We have enjoyed them immensely, however they will be heading back to where they came from at the end of the month to give us a break through winter. For anyone interested in giving backyard chickens a try, I definitely recommend it. Not only were they entertaining, but the knowledge of where your food was coming from was quite comforting. We’ll miss the girls.

I hope your growing season was a productive one! Don’t forget to checkout the yield page to see how things grew here this year.

About the Author

Geoff has been growing plants and vegetables consistently for the last 6 years and actively experiments with, and writes about, all aspects of gardening.

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