Fall in Iowa can bring a mixed bag of weather patterns that range from lingering humidity to lots of rain to cold temperatures. This can make checking the items off your fall garden to-do list somewhat tricky.
To help you stay organized and on top of your organic garden adventures, we’ve gathered a list of 9 things you can do to help your vegetables thrive no matter what weather Iowa throws at us.
Plant the best
When you visit your local nursery or garden center to pick up some fall vegetables, you should choose plants that have healthy foliage and no roots creeping out of the bottom of the container. If you do spot roots emerging from the container’s drain holes then the plant is likely rootbound.
If you have a wide range of plants to choose from, opt for smaller plants in 4-inch nursery pots. Not only are they usually less expensive, but they’re easier to handle and will catch up to the larger plants during the winter rains.
Read plant labels
Before putting a plant in your cart, read the labels for some key information:
- How big is it supposed to grow?
- Does it need shade?
- How much sun does it need?
Stock up on compost
Do you have your own organic compost pile at home? You can skip this one if you do. If you don’t, consider picking up an organic option before planting annuals, edibles, and ornamentals this fall. Most nurseries and garden centers sell it in 1- and 2-cubic foot bags and in bulk.
Give your soil a boost
Unless you took the spring and summer off, your garden has been working hard since the ground thawed this year. Add some worm castings to your soil to enhance its biological organism count. Spread 3 to 5 inches of castings over your garden and rake the soil gently until it’s level and smooth. Don’t worry about applying too much as castings cannot burn your plants.
Leave extra space
If you’re planting pumpkins, gourds, squash, or other fall vegetables that can become sizeable, be sure to leave some extra room in your garden. Allow enough space for each to reach their full size so they can thrive.
Give new plants a bath
Water any plants still in their nursery containers with a hose before planting. Ensure the soil is properly wet before placing them into the ground.
Make watering efficient
Do you have a watering system for your Iowa garden? Now is the perfect time to set one up! Drip irrigation is ideal for most plants, but soaker hoses and hose-end sprinklers work wonders as well.
Water well after planting
Even your drought-tolerant vegetables need extra watering right after planting. Irrigate your fall garden deeply and thoroughly with the hose even if you plan to add drip irrigation. Water your plants regularly throughout the winter if rain is minimal.