It hardly seems logical to discuss Fall planting when Summer is just getting underway, but it’s the right time to begin your plans for an autumn garden.
Ideally gardeners should start preparing for fall right around the summer solstice, if not before if you live in an area with a short growing season. In most areas planting should take place from July through August to allow for plenty of time for seeds and plants to grow and mature before the first autumn freeze.
The average date of the first killing frost in your area is the most important thing to know when it comes to fall vegetable gardening. Your local garden center is a good source of information for this date. To determine when to start planting, find out the number of days to maturity for the vegetable. Next, count back the number of days from the first average frost date. Some people add a week or so to allow for a few extra days to harvest the produce once it’s mature. You will find maturity information on seed packets and some plant labels.
Most everything you plant in spring you can grow in your fall garden, too. These are cool season plants, meaning they will tolerate a light frost, thrive in short daylight hours and perform best with mild temperatures. Some vegetables even taste better when nipped by a light frost.
10 Plants for Your Fall Vegetable Garden
|Broccoli – Broccoli seedlings should be planted 10 weeks before the first frost date in your area. This means planting them during the last hot summer days so it’s important to mulch around them to help keep the ground cool and moist. Feed the plants 3 weeks after transplanting into the garden. Use a low nitrogen fertilizer. 70 days to maturity.|
|Brussels Sprouts – Brussels sprouts are ideal for fall gardens because they really taste best when allowed to mature in cool weather. In my mid-South garden, summer comes too quickly to grow them in the spring garden. Set the plants out in mid-summer. It will take about 3 months before the sprouts appear. They are ready for harvest when they are firm and green. 90 days to maturity.|
|Cabbage – Plant seedlings 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost. If the heat of summer is still intense when it’s time to plant in your area, give the young plants protection from sun. Cabbages are heavy feeders that require fertile soil rich in organic matter and consistent moisture. 70 days to maturity.|
|Cauliflower – Plant seedlings 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost. Cauliflower can be tricky to grow. Rich soil and consistent watering are the keys. Fluctuations in temperature, moisture and nutrients can cause the plant to “button” or produce small, undersized heads. Blanch the heads by tying the outer leaves together over the heads when they are about 2 to 3 inches across. This keeps them from turning green and becoming bitter. 60 days to maturity.|
|Kohlrabi – Kohlrabi is a member of cabbage family, but it looks and tastes similar to a turnip. The bulbous edible portion grows just above the soil line. Shade young plants from summer sun. 40 to 60 days to maturity depending on variety.|
|Lettuce – Sow seeds in late summer. Provide the seedlings with consistent moisture and shade from the afternoon sun. 45 to 60 days to harvest depending on type and variety.|
|Mustard Greens – Sow seeds 6 weeks before the first frost. Seeds will germinate in soil that is 45 to 85 degrees F. Keep the soil consistently moist to encourage rapid growth and tender greens. 45 days to maturity.|
|Radish – Sow seeds for radishes 4 weeks before the first frost. Winter varieties such as China Rose, mature slower, grow larger and store longer. They should be sown about 6 weeks before the first frost. Sow the seeds evenly so you don’t have to thin them. No feeding necessary, but soil should be fertile and well drained. They are quick to mature so check them regularly. They are ready to harvest as soon as they are of edible size. 25 to 50 days to maturity depending on variety.|
|Rutabaga – Sow seeds 12 weeks before the first frost. In regions where summer is long and hot, wait to sow seeds until night time temperatures are consistently around 50 to 60 degrees F. Rutabagas are a cross between cabbage and turnip. Although they are suitable for early spring gardens, they seem to have the best flavor when grown in fall. Keep the soil consistently moist to prevent roots from forking. 90 days to maturity.|
|Spinach – Sow seeds 5 weeks before first frost date. The short days and cool, moist weather of fall is even better for spinach than spring. An established spinach crop will last well into winter and can survive temperatures down into the 20s. Spinach prefers very fertile soil to encourage rapid growth and tender leaves. 45 days to maturity|
Kale because it’s nutritious, delicious, and one of the hardiest plants in the garden. Add to that the large number of varieties and the ornamental qualities of this plant and you can’t go wrong with growing kale in the fall vegetable garden.
Collards make the list right up there with the kales. Just as cold hardy, collards also flourish during the high temperatures of summer. It’s a cinch to nurture collards, especially the variegated variety, right through the winter.
Leeks tolerate repeated freezing and thawing and your biggest challenge will be getting them out of the garden after the ground has frozen. They require a very long growing season, so plant in early spring for fall harvests.
Mache isn’t well known or appreciated by many gardeners, but can provide you with tasty, lettuce-like greens well into the fall.
Parsnips are included on the list because cold temps really bring out their best flavor and sweetness. Planted in early spring they will grow through summer, survive the winter unprotected and can be harvested right through the following spring.
Garlic isn’t a winter vegetable in the sense that you can harvest it during the fall season like all the others. I’m including it here because it’s one of my favorite plants, and in many areas you’ll get the best results growing garlic from a fall planting.
Cold Climate Herbs
Chives, sour cream and a baked potato, nothing could be a better addition to a lovely meal. Chives return each year like clockwork and offer not only their delectable stems to the gardener but also their flavorful flower. The flower is a beautiful addition to spice up any salad. When winter arrives, your chives seem to die but the roots continue to grow. Next spring you’ll see the chives emerge again. There’s nothing difficult about growing chives. Simply plant the seed in well turned soil, keep the ground moist and you’ll soon see the shoots appear.
Plant your chives closer to the center of your garden. If you’re growing chives herbs near the edge of the garden close to grass, this causes a bit of confusion. The grass and chives mix and until they’re taller, its’ tough to tell them apart. Once the chives start to grow, they multiply. To give some as a gift or create another area of chives, just dig up a clump and put them in their new home.
Cilantro and coriander are two herbs in one. The seed is the coriander and the ferny leaves are cilantro. These are also very easy to grow annually. They don’t require a long growing season. You can use the leaves as they grow for cilantro but when you’re ready to harvest the coriander, tie the stalks together and put a paper sack over the top. Tie the sack to the plants. Hang these upside down to dry and the seeds fall into the sack.
Fennel – If ever there was an under appreciated plant, its fennel. The leaves are good for diets and its not wonder. They’re tiny ferny little things that couldn’t add many calories to anyone’s diet. The plant, however, is beautiful in the spring. The soft leaves remind you of a furry pet in your garden. You’ll almost want to pet it. The leaves have a licorice scent, as does the bulb of the fennel plant. You use both. Don’t worry weather it lives through the winter. It doesn’t but it scatters enough seed for even more plants the next year.
Oregano – Most people don’t realize that oregano makes it through the winter in colder climates and comes back the following spring. This plant is a lot hardier than it’s given credit. Once the oregano is established, it tends to wander other place you might not want it. You’ll find that it likes sunny areas but also grows well in partial shade.
Mints – If you grow any of the many mints, there are two rules. Rule one: Keep the mints in containers. Rule two: Keep the mints away from each other if they’re different flavors. Rule one prevents your mint from becoming a weed that invades everything around. Rule two prevents the mints from cross-pollinating and creating a new flavor, often not as good as the first two. This is particularly bad if chocolate mint crosses with an orange mint. You then have not an orange chocolate flavor but a plant you want to eliminate.
Lemon balm is a member of the mint family and has it’s bags ready to travel to other areas of your garden. This hardy little plant is delightful with cooked pork and as a garnish. You’ll find yourself going to the garden to squeeze a leaf and release the lemony pledge smell from the plant.