Not ready to abandon the pleasures of gardening just because fall is approaching? Then it’s time to look into another round of planting.
From beans to kale to peas, there’s a fall crop that’s bound to suit your preferences. Naturally, your best bet is to settle on vegetables with late harvests or on those with long harvest windows. Doing so means you can keep them in the ground longer and get more production out of them as the weather cools.
Before you start any late-season planting be sure to check whether your hardiness zone can support a late season crop! Gardeners who live in areas with early first frost dates could be cut off if they sow too late. In some areas, a fall garden can produce well into October and other areas see gardens pushing on through early December.
Planting Vegetables for the fall
Most gardeners plant their fall garden crops in mid to late summer. This gives the plants time to mature and harden before cool weather sets in. Be aware, though — these late season crops will grow slower as days become shorter and temperatures cool.
Worried that your garden is looking a little crowded? Don’t worry! As fall weather rolls around, your summer garden will thin out, and you’ll find more space opening up for your fall vegetables.
As for the best vegetables for the fall and the particulars of how to grow them, check out this guide:
For growing green beans, you can either opt for a bush or a pole bean variety. Pole beans are generally the most popular, but the smaller bush-style plants are better for container gardens. Start them both after the last chance for frost has passed and in full sun. Water evenly early on, but once they break the surface allow the soil to dry out between watering. The pole bean harvest begins at about 60 days, while the bush plants are ready at about 50 days. Both can be continuously harvested until the first frost of the fall.
When people think of beets they most often picture the red roots, but you can also eat beet leaves! Eat beet greens as part of a salad or on their own within a few days of picking them. Start your fall beets about 10 to 12 weeks before you expect the first frost of the season. To germinate, the seeds need to be constantly moist and in a soil with a pH between 6.2 and 7.0. Beets prefer temperatures around 65 degrees, so be prepared to throw on some row covers if the night temperatures dip too severely. Your beets, which should be ready in about eight weeks, can keep in a refrigerator or root cellar for several months.
Broccoli, like many of the vegetables in this list, is cruciferous.This means it thrives in cold temperatures, though temperatures below 25 degrees Fahrenheit can kill the plant. Plant your broccoli sprouts about 24 inches apart in soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Water 1 to 1.5 inches a week. Watch for early blooming in times of high heat and cut the head if buds begin stretching or showing yellow flower petals. Expect to get successive cuttings from these extremely cold-tolerant plants after 60 to 80 days in the ground.
4. Brussels Sprouts
These “little cabbages” are high in vegetable protein carbohydrates and are often one of the last crops in the garden at the end of the growing season. These veggies, which thrive around 60 to 65 degrees F, should be treated much like broccoli or cauliflower. Provide them with well-drained soil and limited nutrients. Start them in mid- to late-summer to get a fall harvest. Strip off any low yellow leaves as you harvest the heads, which are ready when they reach 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Harvest from the bottom up and expect to continue your harvest through the first snow, but note their production will slow the colder it gets.
Cabbage needs to be sown into a loam. This type of soil is composed of 40% sand, 40% silt and 20% clay. For a late crop, put it in the ground by midsummer and should be placed near another crop that’s big enough to provide them adequate shade from the intense summer sun. Alternatively, plant in an area that receives only partial sun. Avoid wetting the leaves of a cabbage, which can render the plant vulnerable to disease. Instead you should focus on watering the soil at the base of the plant, as cabbage needs even moisture to really thrive.
The great thing about carrots is that they don’t take long to mature. That means you can actually grow several generations of carrots in one long growing season. You can plant new seeds every 2 weeks for a continuous harvest after their initial growing time. For baby carrots wait 50 to 60 days, and mature carrots are ready around 75 days. Carrots prefer a sandy loam and daytime temperatures around 75 degrees for optimum growth.
As one of the best all-natural substitutes for carbs, cauliflower is a great crop to have on hand. These veggies don’t like hot steamy weather and work best as early spring or late season crops. Plant your cauliflower in a full-sun area with a deep, well-drained soil. The varieties have a wide range in maturity times, from as low as 50 days to as high as 71 days. Though we love Cauliflower, it’s also worth noting it’s a difficult plant to grow. If the conditions aren’t just right, your crop will suffer.
As far as vegetables go, chard is a wonderful addition to a garden simply for its ornamental value. If you also happen to like its spinach-like taste, then that’s even better! Transplant your seedlings in mid to late summer about 12 inches apart into slightly alkaline soil. Expect to begin your harvest about 8 weeks later. Don’t pull out the entire plant. Instead, clip the leaves you need and you’ll have additional growth soon enough.
Grow your fall chicory directly from seeds or as transplants in conditions similar to those used for lettuce – well drained and plenty of nitrogen. Chicory is quite cold tolerant and can survive temperatures in the 20s. If you leave its roots in place you can expect it to regrow in the spring since it’s perennial. Plant seedlings 10 to 12 inches apart and harvest it when it’s between 12 and 18 inches tall. For use in salads, blanch the plants for two weeks prior to harvest.
Another great addition to your salad plate, endives are usually ready to harvest 60 to 90 days after germinating. They also work great in container gardening. For transplants, loosen the surface of your soil, add fertilizer and set them about 12 inches apart. Weeding should be done with care since these plants grow very close to the surface and soil disturbances can damage your plants. Water the roots regularly. You can begin trimming leaves after about a month of growth, blanch the leaves to curb the strength of the endive flavor.
This superfood is a great late season crop for your garden since it can survive most frosts. Start it in early summer and expect to be able to harvest it until the ground freezes. Even then, a heavy mulching can extend the growing season deep into the winter. Kale, which prefers a slightly alkaline soil, should have its seedlings thinned so that plants have about a foot between them. Water kale regularly – provide just enough to keep the soil moist. A single dose of fertilizer is all your kale needs to be highly productive through its season.
This member of the onion family has an extended harvest time. In fact, many leek varieties can survive through the winter. The ‘Varna’ variety is excellent for fall harvests. Try the ‘American Flag’ and ‘Blue Solaise’ for leeks in the winter and spring. For the most part, you’ll need to start Leeks from seed and transplant them to the soil after 8 to 10 weeks. Leeks prefer sandy soil that drains well – especially important for those expected to survive freezing temperatures.
If you’re eager for a fall crop of onions, look for the short-day varieties that work well in raised beds. Plant them into crumbly, fertile soil that’s been prepped with a 2-inch layer of compost. As the onions mature, their green tops will change color and dry out. When half the onion tops have bent over, push the remainder over and allow them to yellow for two weeks. Next use a spading fork to lift them from the soil and wait another two weeks before removing them completely from the soil to dry before using.
When prepping the ground for your fall pea crop, mix in generous amounts of organic material and set up a trellis before planting for vines to climb. Base your planting date by counting back from your first expected frost date. After vines sprout, surround them with mulch to hold in moisture and keep weeds from overwhelming them. Since your fall peas will be planted in the heat of summer, expect to nurse them along with a diligent watering routine. Your fall peas will have a sweeter taste than those you start in the spring.
Fall gardening may require a little research, planning, and experimentation on your part to see what works best for you, but a bountiful supply of homegrown vegetables makes all the hard work worth it.
Join our e-newsletter to be among the first to know about expert advice, new products, enhanced services, exclusive sales and special offers.