If you want to grow veggies in your yard, starting a fall garden is the answer.
You see, the fall weather forces you to grow only low and medium demand veggies in most parts of the U.S., and every farmer, long time gardeners takes advantage of this time of year.
Low demand veggies practically take care of themselves, after they germinate. They are the easiest to take care of. Most people assume that all plants require the same level of care but you’ll be surprised to find that peas, beets, carrots, kale, most kinds of herbs, and the colorful swiss chard can practically take care of themselves ( given the right conditions…more on this later).
But it gets better:
What if I showed you how to use the fall season to start growing vegetables at home with ease, build your soil fertility, and have loads of swiss chard and kale through winter, fresh from your yard.
The Secret to Creating an abundant fall garden (or any season) is soil fertility.
When you start a raised bed, grow in the ground, in a flower bed, or in a large pot, how can you create fertile soil fit for a thriving veggie garden?
Steve Solomon, a gardening guru who started the Territorial Seed company and has written several gardening books, came up with what is called “complete organic fertilizer (COF)”, and it’s hands- down, one of the best ways to create fertile soil that will help your veggies thrive.
Quite simply, COF, as defined by Solomon, is a complete, highly potent, and correctly balanced fertilizing mix made entirely of natural substances which he mixes with compost ( source ).
Solomon then goes on to explain he has recommended the COF for 20 years and he’s never received a complaint only compliments on how amazing their plants are, and that they even taste better than ever. I know because I’ve too experienced the magic behind COF.
But the question remains: How can you do it?
How a complete organic fertilizer helps you grow a bountiful fall garden.
What’s the key to growing a bountiful fall garden or prepare your soil for spring planting?
You must get key soil nutrients and add them to your topsoil/compost.
As you know, water and sunlight are necessary for all plants. Fertil Soil, on the other hand, is essential for the health of your plants and essentially you. It’s also the one part you have to work on the most to build (water and enough sunlight are relatively easier to achieve).
You see, soil fertility is not just about nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK). It’s also about calcium, magnesium, and minute but important minerals like, iodine, cobalt, manganese, boron…etc. This is just the basics of what fertile soil should contain for a productive vegetable garden.
But fertile soil is not a given, especially in urban and suburban settings. In fact, most soils don’t automatically have all of these nutrients perfectly balanced (because of building cities and suburbs, mass monoculture agriculture, most topsoil near you is nutrient poor), an organic farmer also needs to add fertilizers in the soil for their plants.
But if you can access some 12” + container or a raised bed, fill it with compost, adding COF would boost the soil with naturally sourced nutrients that your plants need.
And that’s where nutrients rich veggies come from…
Remember, when you have nutrient rich soil, you get nutrient rich vegetables.
So, if you want to grow food at home, you should first make sure your soil is rich in all the nutrients the vegetables you grow needs.
Some people suggest you use compost because it is full of nutrients and it very loose, which makes it easy for roots to spread out and mine for nutrients because it works.
I, on the other hand, prefer to grow in compost and side-dress with Solomon’s COF or pure vermicompost (I no longer have the setup to do this one though it works too – if you can afford to buy it from a reputable source) because it works much better.
How to start a fall garden bed that is very productive
When you’re staring at a new veggie garden, the task of building and prepping a raised bed, container, or that small corner of the flower bed can be overwhelming.
So, how can you build and prep your growing area with ease so that your plants thrive?
If you’re tight on time like I am, there’s a simple formula you can follow, and it almost always works (very clay-heavy soil will definitely need a thick 18” layer of compost on top for this to work). Here it is:
[Grow in Finished Plant-Based Compost] + [Side-Dress with Complete Organic Fertilizer or Worm Casting] + [6+ hours of Sunlight & Water] = thriving veggie conditions
Even if you don’t grow anything this fall, getting your growing area prepped with this formula now will help your plants come spring.
To use this formula, here are some tips:
[Grow in Finished Plant-Based Compost]
You can get compost from many city solid waste programs. Google your city plus compost program to find yours. You want compost made from yard and kitchen waste (making it mostly plant-based compost). You can also search for if landscaping services sell good quality compost but this option is pricier.
You want to fill your growing area with at least 1 foot of compost the first year. More is better for your veggie garden.
If you’re using containers or pots to grow veggies, I would recommend not to buy potting soil and fill your container with nice rich loose compost.
[Side-Dress with Complete Organic Fertilizer]
Complete Organic Fertilizer is easy and low-cost to make at home but it may take some research to find all the ingredients. I would recommend calling ahead to farm and feed supply shops near you. In my town, a small local hardware store happens to carry all of these items so check your small local hardware store too.
COF recipe: *don’t do by weight measure by volume in a five-gallon bucket. You don’t have to add everything if you are tight on money, the seed meal and limes are the most important.
4 parts (cotton, soy, or alfalfa) Seed meal – this is for adding nitrogen mostly. I love to use alfalfa meal even though it costs more than the others. Down to Earth is my favorite brand to use.
¼ part ordinary agricultural lime pellets – Plants needs calcium like our bodies. Lime contains other things but mostly it’s added for its calcium content.
¼ part gypsum or double the ordinary agricultural lime if you don’t have gypsum – gypsum is another type of lime. It is great for clay soils and it has more sulfur content which is a nutrient your body and plants need.
½ part dolomite lime- dolomite lime is another type of lime but this one is rich in magnesium. Yet another nutrient your plants and body need.
1 part kelp meal or rock phosphate – I prefer to use kelp meal because it is known to help plants to become cold tolerant and it adds so many micronutrients that make the plants so happy. (source)
If you fill up a 5-gallon bucket with this mix, this fertilizer will last you all season if you’re growing on 100 sq ft or less. I prefer to throw some in the hole that I’m transplanting in and as it grows, throw a little next to the plant once a month for the first two months.
[6+ hours of Sunlight & Enough Water]
The sunlight is key too once you have good soil. Pick a spot of ground ( you can grow kale and swiss chard in your flower bed too) or a place to put your container/pot that has 6 hours of sunlight is ideal for most veggies to thrive.
Water is not needed as much as newbie home gardeners think. Plants just need enough water, too much and it begins to die. In the first 3 weeks of sprouting, the plant needs consistent moisture. After, it can be watered when the soil is dried out on the top one inch. If you live in a rain part of the country, let the rain do the work for you. Get your fingers dirty, stick it in the soil and feel… is the soil moist?
Couldn’t be easier, right?
What do you think? How do make your soil fertile? Have you used this complete organic fertilizer or vermicompost to create healthy soil before? Leave a comment! or send me an e-mail with the form below.