Thinking of starting a fall garden? Ask yourself these 7 newbie questions.
This week's "Sustainable Gardening" blog post was supposed to be about using plastic bottles to start the seeds for your fall garden, but I want to backtrack a little. I was listening to a podcast the other day and they were talking about that feeling you get as a new gardener. I'll admit it. When I started my garden a few months ago, I was a little overzealous. I planted tons of seeds in different varieties without thinking about where I would plant things, what areas got more sun than others, what bugs would do to them, or what plants could truly stand up to this Texas heat. Now that we're starting to think about our fall gardens, I want for you and I to both get started on the right foot. Keep these things in mind while you're planning your next garden:
#1 What veggies do you or your family actually eat?
When we first dreamed of growing our own food, we thought about all the things we could plant. And I was so excited. I bought a number of things, including eggplant seeds. Now I love eggplant, but the rest of my family doesn't seem as excited. And for me to plant 4 eggplant plants seems like a lot for just me. Make a resolution right now that if you're a new gardener, you're not going to plant any vegetables that you or your family don't eat.
#2 What veggies can you grow in your area?
Every part of the country is different and veggies react in different ways to different things. And I can tell you for a fact that even though that pack of Bush Lake Beans says you can grow them in the summer in Texas, you shouldn't believe it. Whenever you plan on starting your garden, whether it be in the fall or another time of the year, look for veggies that grow well in your area and your climate. If you're gardening this fall in Dallas, Texas like me, you can take a look at the Texas A&M Fall Vegetable Gardening in Texas Guide. It gives you a list of veggies you can plant that thrive in our fall weather. If you're not in our area, do a web search, making sure to list your city and state in the search tab for more accurate listings (for example, "what veggies can I grow in **insert city, state**).
#3 What space do you have to plant my garden in?
I stay in the heart of Dallas, Texas, in the inner city. My plants are on the side of my house in tubs, buckets and old containers that I've made drainage holes in. And I'm happy because things are growing and taking off, no matter how it looks. Take into consideration the area you have to actually garden in and how much space each plant will need to truly thrive and that will really finalize what you can plant this season.
#4 Do you have time to water your veggies? I know this seems like a no-brainer, but if you plant so much stuff and you don't have time water it, then it's just going to die. Not to mention the fact that water is not free. I have a small garden, and even my bill went up about $20 since the Texas heat really kicked in. Don't plant acres of veggies if you can't afford the water bill you'll get.
#5 Do you have the bandwidth to maintain your garden?
Since I'm at home during self-quarantine, I wake up at 7:00 am to tend to my garden. In Texas, it's just too hot to right now to wait any longer in the day, and since I wanted to keep my early morning routine, I keep my alarm clock set every morning. Gardening not only takes water, but time and energy. You want to make sure you're looking for pest damage, pulling weeds, pruning dead leaves, and fertilizing, among other things. Only plant what you'll have time to maintain, at a consistent level.
#6 Are you prepared for the bugs and critters and dying plants your garden might get?
I can't stand bugs, but I understand that with gardening they kind of come with the territory. And because I'm trying to grow as organically as possible, I have to be comfortable with a certain level of plant damage. Be prepared for some bugs and critters that you might not have even known were in your yard. Also, be prepared for plants to just die. Plants really do want to live-it's in their DNA. But not all of them make it and you can't take it personally. Learn that firsthand and don't end up crying over a broken tomato plant (like me).
#7 Do you know what you'll do with your harvest?
I know it's kind of early, but if you're planning to grow things, be prepared for your harvest. Are you going to freeze it? Can it? Eat it immediately? Now's the time to look up recipes and come up with an actionable game plan for when your harvest comes in.
Now that you have a more realistic expectation of starting your fall garden, go back and read our blog post about how to start your seeds. I'm also including a copy of our Fall Vegetable Garden Planning Sheet. I'm using this to plan out what veggies I'm going to plant.
Have questions? Want to brag about completing your planning sheet? Leave a comment below, and happy gardening!