It’s just about that time – school will soon be back in session! With the beginning of school comes the fall growing season, so it’s time to think about transitioning the garden to fall crops. To help make that as easy and productive as possible, Big Green Chicago has put together a Fall Garden Plan as a guide. If you used our garden plan last fall you may notice a few changes – each season we evaluate what worked best for most schools and make tweaks to help make sure gardens are as productive as possible. This year we’ve also added some fun new varieties to mix things up! All seeds and seedlings are available for pickup at our Back-to-School Garden Workshops in August. Here’s a look at what’s in store:
Growing a successful fall garden during the school year is all in the timing. If your school didn’t grow a summer garden or planted summer cover crop, you can keep a few pretty flowers then transition everything all at once to fall crops around September 1. However, if you grew a vegetable garden over the summer we’re suggesting a new strategy for this fall: we’re recommending a rolling transition to fall crops. This means instead of transitioning the whole garden to fall crops on one day, doing so on an ongoing basis as it makes sense in your garden. Not all plants finish producing at the same time, so this way you get the most out of both your summer and fall crops.
A rolling transition like this needs to be strategic. Some fall crops should be planted as soon as possible to get a harvest before winter, while others can wait a bit longer. As summer plants like tomatoes or cucumbers expire, remove them and replace with a fall vegetable. Crops that should be planted right away (late August to early September) include:
- Tokyo Benkana Chinese Cabbage seedlings
- Joi Choi Pac Choi seedlings
- Ruby Red Swiss Chard seedlings
- Provider Bush Bean seeds
- Seaside Spinach seeds
If the timing of your summer harvest and your fall planting mean you have to leave some of these out, just pick the crops that you and your students are most excited about growing and eating.
Crops that you could plant anytime now through late September include:
- Dwarf Grey Sugar Pea seeds, for shoots
- Cherriette Radish seeds
- Red Russian and Siberian Kale seeds, for baby kale harvest
- Calypso Cilantro seeds
The links for the above varieties take you to Johnny’s Selected Seeds website. All the seeds you’ll find in your pails and all our seedlings come from seeds generously donated by Johnny’s. Their website has growing and harvest info on each variety as well as a Growers Library with videos and other helpful growing resources.
Check out the full Fall Garden Plan here, which includes more information on planting and harvesting, and links to helpful videos. As always, if you have questions reach out to your Garden Educator at any time, we’re always happy to help. Wishing you a most productive fall garden and wonderful harvest!