Fall offers some of the best vegetable gardening.
In fact, autumn's cool weather and Jack Frost's nippy touches can enhance the flavor of healthy greens like collards. Spinach often survives winter, giving you a source of valuable iron, vitamins and beta-carotene through spring.
Garlic is always best planted in September-October; planting a single clove yields a full head the next summer, according to Organic Gardening magazine. Mulch your garlic patch with straw to keep weeds down and soil moist.
Plus, fall gardens often have fewer insect problems because peak insect activity happens mostly mid-summer.
When you plant a fall vegetable, be prepared to protect crops from heavy frosts, covering rows with burlap or a floating row cover made from special lightweight material supported by stakes or wire to keep it from directly touching plants. Milk jugs of warmed water can be placed by individual plants to protect them at night.
A fall garden can be simple to plant and maintain, especially if you create it in large containers on deck.
Containers offer many advantages to fall vegetable gardens. The potting mix is free of insects and diseases, so vegetable transplants available now at local garden centers get off to a good start quickly. You can protect young, tender plants from the hot sun, storms and pests by moving containers to sheltered locations. You can also grow plants longer into the fall by protecting them from frosts and moving the pots into the sunny spots once the days get cooler and plant growth slows.
If you plant fall flowers like pansies and ornamental cabbages in containers, consider adding some vegetables and herbs to the mix.
Pamela Crawford's book, "Easy Container Combos: Vegetables and Flowers," features some combinations that are quick and easy to duplicate anywhere you garden on a balcony, patio, decor, porch or tucked among plants in your garden.
Here are some of her quick tips for planting productive, pretty, patio pots:
Start with transplants. Transplants are much quicker and easier than growing from seed. Locally, you will see Bonnie Plants vegetables and herbs at most local garden centers.
Keep containers simple. Two to three varieties per pot are plenty. When picking your plants, be sure to read tags before you buy your varieties. You can't just pick any flower and vegetable and plant them together in a container; varieties require similar sunlight conditions and should have similar growing habits.
Combos like large containers that have drainage holes in the bottom. Vegetables will grower larger and produce more fruit when roots have more space to grow. More water can be stored, you won't have to haul out the hose as much and most vegetables just look better in bigger containers.
Drainage holes are extremely important so roots don't rot.
Plant as close as you can. Container gardens are planted much closer together than gardens in the ground. Don't be afraid to plant varieties close together in your container, and yes, plants will live and flourish!
Create a centerpiece. A centerpiece can be any type of
plant as long as it remains taller than surrounding plants for the life of the arrangement. Choose a plant that is full or you can combine several skinny plants to create your focal point.
Don't forget flowers. Add pretty petals in, vegetables can get leggy.
Be sure to plant flower varieties around the base edge of the container, you'll cover up leggy stems, add some pop and soften the look.
Add a little TLC. Once you've selected your plants, fill your pot with a good potting mix (garden soil is too heavy), sprinkle in some plant food and water about every other day.