How to Prepare for a Fantastic Fall Growing Season

In the long, warm days of August, few of us give much thought to fall. But as a Tower Gardener, that’s exactly what you should be doing.

More specifically, you should be planning your garden’s transition into cooler weather.

Since Tower Garden extends the growing season, you’ll be able to enjoy fresh harvests through the fall and early winter — provided you follow these five simple steps.

1. Select and start your fall crops.

It’s best to begin planning for the cool season now because you’ll need a little time — at least a month or so — to nurture a new round of plants (assuming you start them from seed).

Wondering what you should grow? Generally speaking, leafy greens and herbs flourish in the lower temperatures and shorter days of autumn. Fruiting crops, not so much. Here are 35 cool season crops to consider.

Would you rather purchase seedlings than start your own seeds? Here are 10 terrific providers.

2. Secure growing supplies.

After a summer of growing, you’re likely running low on the essentials, such as Mineral Blend and rockwool starter cubes.

You don’t want to start your fall garden late simply because you’re waiting for a shipment to arrive, right? That delay could mean losing your fall harvest to frost.

Restock on the growing supplies you need now so you’re not wishing you had come October.

I recommend picking up ingredients for natural pest control as well. Bad bugs are less of an issue in cooler weather. But it never hurts to be prepared!

3. Harvest remaining summer produce.

Once your cool season crops have grown into strong, eager seedlings, you can transplant them. But what do you do if your Tower Garden is still full of heat loving summer crops?

Harvest!

First, pick all the ripe produce you can find (and enjoy your delicious, fresh feast). As you’re harvesting, remember to save seeds from the plants you’d like to grow again next year.

Tower Garden yields tend to be bountiful, so you may not be able to eat everything you pick. In that case, consider preserving excess harvests. (Here are instructions for drying, freezing, and canning.)

If you’re feeling generous, homegrown fruits, veggies, and herbs also make great gifts. You could share with friends or donate to a local food pantry.

When harvesting, you’ll probably notice that some produce isn’t ripe (e.g., green peppers, small squash). But don’t be afraid to harvest it anyway. Some fruits will actually ripen off the plant.

Take tomatoes — which can stay stubbornly green near the end of summer — for example. As long as the color is beginning to break (see the chart below), the fruit will continue to ripen off the vine. Especially if you employ a few tricks.

Try putting a single layer of unripe tomatoes in a paper bag, and place this bag in a cool location inside. Within a few days, you should notice significant changes in the color of the fruit.

Green tomatoes that show no hint of redness, however, probably won’t ripen off the vine. I recommend using these to make the slightly sour green tomato salsa verde (which is traditionally made with tomatillos).

4. Clean your Tower Garden.

After you’ve picked your summer plants bare, remove them from your Tower Garden. But before you transplant your new seedlings, you should clean the growing system to reduce the risk of a pest or disease outbreak in the fall.

When it comes to cleaning, you have options.

Quick wipe down
If your Tower Garden isn’t too dirty from the summer growing season, it may need nothing more than a light wipe down with a damp rag. (This is also a good option if you plan to do a more thorough cleaning before moving your Tower Garden inside for the winter.)

That said, it’s still a good idea to break apart the growing sections so that you’re able to remove all root debris. You’ll want to drain and refill the reservoir, too, before adding new plants.

Full-system cleaning
If you’re feeling ambitious, disassemble your Tower Garden and perform a comprehensive cleaning. It’s good to do this at least a couple times a year.

You can find instructions and cleaning formula suggestions here.

5. Invest in season-extending accessories.

Toward the end of fall and into early winter, temperatures may drop below what your plants find comfortable. Here are three ways you can keep your Tower Garden warm and prevent plant shock.


Photo by Heather O'Connell

Greenhouse
I’ve yet to dive into greenhouse gardening. But I plan to because a greenhouse allows you to create a microclimate that your plants thrive in, regardless of the weather outside.

From inexpensive pop-ups to automated, permanent structures, you have a wide range of greenhouses to choose from. Some — like the one above — even look like they were specifically designed to accommodate a Tower Garden!

Submersible heater
This is an inexpensive fix for cold weather, as a simple aquarium heater will do the trick. Configure the heater so that it maintains a water temperature in the 65–85˚F range.

Frost protection blanket
To guard your garden against light frosts, drape a Tower Garden Weather Protection Blanket (or a even a bed sheet) over your plants at night. Gardeners have been using this simple trick for decades.

Have a fantastic fall growing season!

I hope this checklist has been helpful. As a recap, to prepare for fall you should:

  1. Select and start your fall crops.
  2. Secure growing supplies.
  3. Harvest remaining summer produce.
  4. Clean your Tower Garden.
  5. Invest in season-extending accessories.

Have questions about any of these steps? Drop a comment below, and I’ll be happy to help.

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