Autumn is here, and so are your gardening questions. Whether you want to know how to prepare your soil, what to plant, or how to deal with pests and diseases, Houston Public Media has you covered. In this article, we will share some of the best autumn gardening tips from experts who have appeared on our programs and podcasts.
How to Prepare Your Soil for Fall Planting
One of the most important steps in autumn gardening is to prepare your soil for the next season. Soil is the foundation of your garden, and it needs to be healthy, fertile, and well-drained. Here are some tips on how to improve your soil in fall:
- Add organic matter. Organic matter, such as compost, manure, or leaf mold, can improve the texture, structure, and nutrient content of your soil. It can also help retain moisture and suppress weeds. You can spread a layer of organic matter over your garden beds and work it into the top few inches of soil with a fork or spade.
- Test your soil pH. Soil pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline your soil is. Different plants prefer different pH levels, so it is important to know what your soil needs. You can buy a simple soil test kit from a garden center or online and follow the instructions. The ideal pH range for most plants is between 6.0 and 7.0, but some plants may need more acidic or alkaline soil. You can adjust your soil pH by adding lime (to raise it) or sulfur (to lower it), but do this gradually and in small amounts.
- Mulch your soil. Mulching is the practice of covering your soil with a layer of organic or inorganic material, such as straw, wood chips, gravel, or plastic. Mulching can help protect your soil from erosion, evaporation, weeds, and temperature fluctuations. It can also add nutrients and organic matter to your soil as it decomposes. You can apply mulch around your plants after planting them in fall, leaving some space around the stems to prevent rotting.
What to Plant in Your Fall Garden
Fall is a great time to plant many kinds of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and trees in your garden. Here are some of the best plants to grow in fall:
- Vegetables. Many cool-season vegetables thrive in fall, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, garlic, and onions. These vegetables can tolerate light frosts and even improve their flavor after exposure to cold temperatures. You can sow seeds directly in the ground or start them indoors and transplant them later. You can also plant some warm-season vegetables that mature quickly, such as beans, cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes.
- Herbs. Herbs are easy to grow and add flavor and aroma to your dishes. Some of the best herbs to plant in fall are parsley, cilantro, dill, sage, thyme, oregano, rosemary, mint, and chives. You can grow herbs in pots or containers on your patio or balcony, or in a sunny spot in your garden. You can harvest fresh herbs throughout the season or dry them for later use.
- Flowers. Flowers can brighten up your garden with their colors and shapes. Some of the best flowers to plant in fall are pansies, violas, snapdragons, calendula, marigolds, asters, mums, and ornamental kale and cabbage. These flowers can withstand cold weather and frost and bloom until winter. You can plant them in beds, borders, containers, or hanging baskets.
- Trees. Trees can provide shade, beauty, and wildlife habitat in your garden. Fall is a good time to plant trees because they have less stress from heat and drought and more time to establish their roots before spring. Some of the best trees to plant in fall are maples, oaks, birches, dogwoods, crepe myrtles, and fruit trees.
How to Deal with Pests and Diseases in Your Fall Garden
Pests and diseases can damage your plants and reduce your harvest. Here are some tips on how to prevent and control them in fall:
- Practice good hygiene. Keeping your garden clean and tidy can help prevent the spread of pests and diseases. Remove any dead or diseased plant material from your garden and dispose of it properly. Do not compost diseased plants as they may infect your compost pile. Sanitize your tools and equipment after each use with a solution of bleach and water.
- Rotate your crops. Rotating your crops means planting different types of plants in different areas of your garden each year. This can help break the cycle of pests and diseases that may affect specific crops. For example, if you planted tomatoes in one spot this year, plant something else there next year, such as beans or lettuce.
- Use organic methods. There are many organic methods to control pests and diseases in your garden, such as hand-picking, trapping, spraying with water or soap, or applying natural repellents or pesticides. You can also attract beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps, that can prey on harmful pests. You can do this by planting flowers that attract them, such as yarrow, dill, fennel, and cosmos.
We hope these autumn gardening tips will help you enjoy your garden this season. For more gardening advice and inspiration, tune in to Houston Public Media’s programs and podcasts, such as The Garden Show, The Lazy Gardener and Friends, and The Dirt Doctor.