Though most of the popular flowers and vegetables are at their peak during the summer, it is not too late to start planting for late fall, winter, and spring, even in the cool Chicago climate. Below is a quick and easy guide to the best options for the fall planting season and some tips for getting the most out of them.
Do the Prep Work
Because summer is the peak growing season, there’s a good chance you’ll have some cleanup to do before you can really get to work on your fall plants. Before you begin planting, carry out the following steps:
- Remove debris. Dead leaves, bits of fruits and vegetables, twigs, and even lawn clippings should be removed from your flowerbeds and vegetable gardens as soon as possible. Numerous destructive insect species overwinter in this leftover debris, so removing it is ideal.
- Till or break up soil. Breaking up the soil in your garden and bed now will make things much easier for you when it’s time to plant. Even if your beds will be bare until spring, if you break up and aerate the soil now, it will be much easier to work with come spring.
- Swap fertilizer for organic nutrients. Fall is a great time to fertilize the soil in your flower and vegetable gardens, but it may be even better to try using leftover organic matter instead of expensive chemical fertilizer.
- Spread mulch. Mulching your beds in early fall will help keep the soil moist and warm for much longer. If you will plant flowers or vegetables in the fall, wait until afterward to spread mulch.
- Save your seeds. As you go around your garden removing debris, remember to save any seeds that you might want to plant again in the spring.
Choose Your Fall Crops
Now that you’ve prepped your vegetable garden and flowerbed areas, it’s time to choose some plants. Some of the best options for the cool Chicago fall weather include:
- Greens known as “salad plants.” Mustard greens, arugula, radishes, and similar plants are wonderful for fall. Be sure that you plant them at least a month in advance of the first frost to ensure their survival.
- Numerous herbs will thrive in the fall, including cilantro and parsley. You might even choose to add some edible flowers like nasturtiums to your herb garden for a pop of delicious color.
- Get your edible bulbs in the ground now. If you want to harvest things like garlic or onions come early summer, now is the perfect time to get them in the ground.
- Consider using accessories to protect plants. There are several ways to make growing season last a little longer in the fall. Some options include things like garden blankets, raised beds, and even row covers just to name a few.
Though Chicago’s fall planting season is not quite as extensive and diverse as spring and summer, there is still plenty of time to get the most out of your garden space. Prep the area early on and then choose the flowers, shrubs, and vegetables that will provide you with the best visual appeal and harvest.