Fall vegetable gardening tips

Leafy greens, root vegetables, and members of the cabbage family are good fall harvest crops. These crops can be planted in mid- to late-summer for fall harvest.

Fall harvest crops are generally cool-weather crops, the same ones commonly planted in late winter or early spring for late spring or early summer harvest. Where autumn weather tends to be warm, some fast-maturing warm-weather crops such as snap beans, summer squash, and even quick-maturing tomatoes also can be planted in late summer for fall harvest.

Leaf lettuce, spinach, mustard, Oriental greens, arugula, cress, sorrel, and kale make good fall crops. Beets, carrots, radishes, and turnips are also good fall harvest crops. All of these crops can be direct sown in the garden in mid- to late-summer.

Summer cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Florence fennel, endive, escarole, and collard greens are crops for fall harvest that are best started indoors and later transplanted out into the garden. Start these crops indoors in early summer for mid- to late-summer transplanting into the garden. (These crops can also be purchased as starts from a local nursery.)

Cool-weather crops sown in summer for fall harvest often perform better than when planted in spring. In mid- to late-summer, garden soil is already warm–not warming as in spring–and seeds germinate more readily. As well, transplants get a faster start in the warm season than in the colder part of the year. Cool-weather crops prefer to mature in cool weather; cool-weather crops planted in spring often come to maturity as the weather is warming, not cooling.

Cooling and cold weather enhances the flavor of many crops coming to harvest in autumn as plant metabolisms change with cooler temperatures. Sugars accumulate in plant tissues of cool-weather crops as temperatures decline and crops become sweeter flavored. Leafy crops such as lettuce are sweeter tasting in cool weather. Brussels sprouts, kale, and parsnips are noticeably more flavorful when exposed to cooler temperatures and even frost.

Planting date. To calculate the planting dates for fall harvest crops, determine the first average frost date in your area; count back the number of days to maturity for each crop you plan to sow or transplant; add an extra week or two to the maturity time allowing for cooler temperatures and shorter days which slow plant growth. For example, sow broccoli three months before the first expected hard fall frost.

In the Northern Hemisphere, gardeners in zone 5 and north can plant cool-weather crops for fall harvest in early July, zone 6 in late July, and zone 7 in August. In zone 8 and south, cool-weather crops for fall harvest can be planted in mid- to late-August and September.

An added advantage to mid- to late-summer planting is the decline in weed growth and a decline in insect pest populations with cooling temperatures.

Planting. Direct sow seeds in summer in the cooler part of the day when water will not quickly evaporate. Seeds and transplants should be watered thoroughly after planting; seedlings should be protected from harsh summer sun by shade cloth until average daytime temperatures begin to cool.

Seedlings started indoors should be gradually exposed to outdoor conditions–hardened off–just as seedlings are hardened off in spring. Set starts out for a few hours each day, protected by shade, until they become accustomed to outdoor conditions in a week or so.

Plant crops for fall harvest in blocks instead of rows. Crops planted in blocks are easier to keep watered and as plants mature their leaves will shade the soil and slow evaporation.

Harvest. Keep a calendar or notebook with planting dates and expected harvest dates to ensure you harvest your crops at their peak.

When frost is expected, be prepared to lift crops from the garden before they are damaged or place frost protection–such as frost blankets or plastic tunnels–over crops before a freeze occurs.

Carrots, leeks, parsnips, and turnips can be left in the late autumn and winter garden until needed; these crops should be protected by a one- to two-foot layer of mulch when freezing weather arrives. These crops should be harvested before the soil freezes solid.

15 Fall Fruits And Vegetables That Are In Season Right Now, And How To Make Them Taste Even More Delicious

You know what fruits and vegetables are just as good as strawberries, watermelon, zucchini, and eggplant? Apples, figs, sweet potatoes, and broccoli rabe — some of fall’s best produce. Summer may soon be ending, but that just means that fall fruits and vegetables will be taking over your farmer’s markets, resulting in lower prices and better quality. If you have ever tried to buy a pomegranate in May, you’ll know what I mean.

And why should summer produce have all the fun and love anyway? Fall’s produce, like apples, pears, and pumpkins, are the building blocks to some of our favorite holiday desserts. And carrots, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower make up some of my favorite side dishes. But if you’re still craving summer produce like blackberries, sweet corn, and peaches, you’re in luck for now — they are still in season come early fall.

Look to farmer’s markets and co-ops to find fall’s lesser known produce like quince and persimmons — you’ll never know what your palate likes until you try new things, and fall produce has some of the most unique fruits and vegetables of all the seasons. But it doesn’t have to end once December rolls around. To extend the life of fall produce come winter, look into pickling, jam-making, and freezing for preservation.

Here are my picks for fall’s best produce, and the recipes to make with your bounty.

1. Figs

Figs are one of those fruits that feel at home in a variety of dishes: eaten fresh with cheese and charcuterie, folded into baked goods, wrapped in prosciutto, or frozen in ice cream. The delicate and aromatic fruit is best eaten through May and November. Try this roasted sweet potato and fig salad recipe by A Cozy Kitchen for a light, but filling lunch.

2. Fennel

You may know fennel as the spice that flavors sweet and hot sausage, but the plant from which it comes from can be used in soups, salads, or baked as a side dish. The anise-flavored bulb can also be shaved and used as lettuce. I like it in Climbing Grier Mountain’s ciabatta fennel hash with a sunny-side egg.

3. Apples

Perhaps the best known fall produce, the apple is as delicious raw as it is cooked. In North America alone, there are more than 2,500 varieties of apples, meaning you’re bound to find a kind you like. Try this cinnamon-sugar apple skillet cake by Joy The Baker the next time you make it to the farmer’s market.

4. Winter Greens

Collard, mustard, and turnip greens don’t get as much love as kale, but the nutritionally dense greens contain just as many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, if not more. Greens are great when simmered and seasoned for hours, but try this collard wrap with carrot hummus by Love and Lemons for a quick lunch.

5. Pomegranate

Pomegranates had their starring moment a couple of years back as an antioxidant-rich food. While the bottled juice at the grocery store may be expensive, the actual fruit this time of year will be a bargain. Try this spaghetti squash, pomegranate seed, and feta cheese salad by the Healthy Foodie.

6. Pears

Like apples, pears are known for their variety — more than 3,000 types exist. Anjou, Bosc, and Bartlett pears are the most well-known varieties in stores, and each has its own flavor profile and best use. Try this pear and chocolate tart by The Messy Baker if you have a sweet tooth.

7. Sweet Potatoes

The sweet potato is a starch-rich root vegetable native to the Americas. Often confused with yams and thought to be related to the potato, sweet potatoes are in a class of their own. Try this sweet potato and caramelized onion frittata by Big Girls Small Kitchen, ideal for brunch, lunch, and dinner.

8. Winter Squash

Butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and the popular pumpkin are just a few varieties of winter squash that are harvested in early fall, and enjoyed through winter. Looking for a twist on traditional meat and cheese lasagna? Make this butternut squash and sausage lasagna by The Kitchn.

9. Brussels Sprouts

If there is one thing on this list you should learn to make properly, it’s Brussels sprouts. When oven-roasted, the vegetable caramelizes and takes on a slightly sweet flavor. Overcook it, and you’ll get the nightmare of a vegetable you had as a kid. Master the sprouts with this roasted garlic Brussels sprouts recipe by Damn Delicious.

10. Broccoli

Sure, you’ll see broccoli at the grocery store year-round, but its peak is between October and April. That’s seven months to learn how to roast, sauté, and steam broccoli. Impress yourself by making this broccoli soup recipe by My Darling Lemon Thyme with tahini, lemon, and pine-nut za’atar.

11. Carrots

No one ever did mind getting carrots in their lunchbox (as long as there was a cookie too). While we’re used to the bright orange variety, neatly trimmed, heirloom varieties can come in many shapes and colors — from white and purple, to long and stumpy. Try this carrot cupcake recipe with vanilla cream cheese frosting by Averie Cooks for a touch of nostalgia.

12. Cauliflower

The sister sibling to broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts, cauliflower is a versatile vegetable that can be served as a crudite, sautéed as a side, added to pasta, or steamed and pureed into a sauce. Try this simple weeknight meal: spicy whole-wheat pasta with roasted cauliflower, brown butter, and garlic.

13. Persimmons

The next time you’re at the farmer’s market or in a speciality supermarket, look out for these brightly hued fruits to add to your cakes, puddings, and salads. Eat these as a snack when they’re fully ripe. If you’re looking to add it to your main meal, try Adventure in Cooking’s roast chicken with persimmons and sage.

14. Grapes

If you are a wine buff, you’ll know that harvest comes in early fall, when the grapes have ripened and are ready to be made into wine. Although red and green grapes are found year-round, it is early fall when they reach their peak. Try Concord grapes if you can get your hands on them, and add them to this grape and ricotta focaccia recipe by My Name Is Yeh.

15. Beets

Beets may have a sour reputation for staining everything in sight, but that shouldn’t deter you from cooking or eating raw this nutritional root. Start simple with this roasted beet and carrot salad by Naturally Ella.

Images: A Cozy Kitchen; Climbing Grier Mountain; Joy the Baker; Love and Lemons; The Healthy Foodie; The Messy Baker; Big Girls Small Kitchen; the kitchn, Damn Delicious; My Darling Lemon Thyme; Averie Cooks; Cooking for Keeps; Adventures in Cooking; My Name is Yeh; Naturally Ella

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Table of Contents

Early to late summer is the best time to plant crops for a fall garden.

While you’re excited to get those tomatoes, zucchini and beans in the ground, early to late summer is also the perfect time to get your crops sown for a fall harvest. Some fall harvest crops grow quickly and don’t need to be sown until closer to the end of summer once the weather begins to cool. Many however take 80-100 days and need to be planted early to mid-summer for a fall harvest.

What are the best Crops to Plant for a Fall Garden? In this post I’ve listed the crops, let you know when to plant them and made notes of certain varieties ( * indicate better cold tolerance).

Most of these fall and winter crops can handle light frosts (and even taste better!)

Crops to Plant for a Fall Garden

Here are the crops to plant in your fall and winter garden.

Crops to sow early summer that take 90-120 days

  • Parsnips
  • Celeriac
  • Winter Cabbage (January King*, Kalibos, Danish Ballhead, Deadon*)
  • Carrots (some varieties take 90 days like Autumn King*, may take less)
  • Leeks (some varieties take less)
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Winter Squash & Pumpkins (learn how to harvest & cure)
  • Rutabaga

Crops that take 60-80 days before harvesting

  • Beets (Cylindra, Golden, Winterkeeper Lutz*)
  • Turnips (Milan, Purple Top*, Navet)
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower (Purple Cape*, Galleon*, most varieties don’t tolerate frosts).
  • Fall Cabbage
  • Carrots (Napoli*)
  • Radicchio
  • Endive
  • Winter radishes* (Green Luobo, Black Spanish, Watermelon, China Rose, Daikon)
  • Kale
  • Collards
  • Peas
  • Kohl Rabi
  • Swiss Chard
  • Scallions

Crops that grow fast & are sown towards the end of summer

(that take 30-50 days)

  • Fall radishes
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Meslcun greens
  • Lettuce (Winter Density*)
  • Mache
  • Mustards
  • Pac Choi

Conclusion

While most people focus their garden efforts for summer harvesting extending the season into the fall and even the winter months is a great way to increase the yields from your garden.

Learn more about fall & winter gardening

  • Grow 365 Days a Year
  • How to Plant your Fall & Winter Garden
  • Crops that can Handle Frosts and Snow
  • Growing food year-round in a greenhouse
  • Unheated Winter Greenhouse Growing

My name is Isis Loran, creator of the Family Food Garden. I’ve been gardening for over 10 years now and push the limits of our zone 5 climates. I love growing heirlooms & experimenting with hundreds of varieties, season extending, crunchy homesteading and permaculture.

You may be in full summer-harvest mode, picking zucchini, tomatoes, and basil every night. Or maybe you got sidetracked this spring and your plans to get the vegetable garden going just never went according to plan. Well, here’s some good news: Just because fall is on its way doesn’t mean it’s time to pack away your gardening gloves.

While the crisp fall weather may make it trickier to grow crops, there are still many vegetables that you can plant. Fall crops typically need a little extra time to mature because they receive less daylight as the season winds down. In most temperate growing zones, fall-planted crops will be ready to harvest in September and October. In very mild climates like the Pacific Northwest, many of these crops can survive through the winter, providing much needed garden love in the gloomiest months of the year. Fortunately, a successful fall garden hinges on only a few simple rules:

1. Get started early.

By the time many people start thinking about fall crops, it’s already too late. To ensure a successful fall and winter harvest, you need to start many of your late-season crops in the peak of summer. In most regions, this means planting in the heat of August to give your crops time to size up while growing conditions are still good. Some fast growing fall crops like lettuce and radishes can be planted into late September, but many desirable fall crops like broccoli and carrots need several months of prime-growing conditions to mature before frost and low light levels set in. When in doubt, plant your fall crops a little early.

2. Know how long it takes fall crops to grow.

Each crop has a relatively predictable lifespan, meaning that you can anticipate approximately how long it will take to reach harvestable size. The lifespan of the crop is usually defined by the phrase “days to maturity” which will be listed on the seed package or plant tag. Days to maturity will vary a bit by environmental conditions, but these numbers should be fairly accurate. As a general rule, you should plan your planting so that the crops have time to reach maturity before the first frost. (Find your local frost date here.)

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3. Harvest summer crops ASAP.

Get out there and harvest your spring and summer crops. Planning a successful fall garden hinges on the proper management of spring and summer plantings. In most gardens, where space is limited, it is imperative that early-season crops are harvested and removed from the garden in a timely fashion. This clearing makes room for the new fall plantings. Crops that may be finishing up in your garden midsummer include:

  • garlic
  • onions
  • potatoes
  • carrots
  • beets
  • cauliflower
  • cabbage
  • broccoli

You might also still have some spring salad greens that are exhausted and ready to come out.

When choosing which fall crops to add to your garden, start by making an inventory of currently harvestable crops. This will allow you to determine how much space you will have available and prioritize the fall plantings you care about most.

4. Know that crops last longer in fall.

Fall and winter gardening turns your vegetable plot into a giant refrigerator. During the fall season, cool weather allows crops to hold longer in the garden once mature. Crops like broccoli, cabbage, and kale can live for months in the garden after they reach maturity. Even fast-growing crops like spinach, cilantro, and lettuce will hold their quality for much longer when planted for fall harvest. If you plan properly, you may be able to harvest from the garden all through the cold season and into the early spring.

Now that you are primed to select crops that still have time to mature in your region and have opened up space in the garden for new crops, it’s time to decide which fall crops you’ll be planting this year.

The Best Vegetables to Plant in a Fall Garden

Beets

You can plant beet seeds about eight to 10 weeks before the first expected frost, and harvest them in time for the holidays. The main difference: Beets harvested in fall have stronger colors than spring-planted beets. Since they aren’t fond of crowds, plant seeds about 1 inch deep and 3 to 4 inches apart, or sow them closer together and use the thinnings later for salad fixings.

GET THE GUIDE

Carrots

Direct-sow carrots into the garden in rows spaced 6 to 8 inches apart. If your garden has drip irrigation, sow the seeds along the drip lines. Carrot seed is very small and can be hard to sow precisely, so aim for five to eight seeds per inch.

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Onions

Depending on where you live, plant onion sets two to four weeks before the average last-frost date. Place the sets in a shallow furrow, space four to six inches apart, and cover with just enough soil to leave their pointed tips at the soil surface.

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Broccoli

Transplant broccoli into the garden, spacing plants 12 to 18 inches apart. Broccoli loves nitrogen, so an additional application of a nitrogen source like blood meal or alfalfa meal will help it thrive.

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Salad Greens

Obviously salad greens are a category, but most kinds can thrive during fall growing conditions. Greens need a relatively short amount of time to mature, so you can plant them through August and into September.

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Asparagus

Once the temperatures cool down, dig trenches 12 inches wide and 6 inches deep in your garden beds. Soak the asparagus crowns before planting them in the trenches nearly feet apart and then top them with 2 to 3 inches of soil. Winterize these greens to ensure that you’ll have a fresh crop come springtime.

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Garlic

In mid-fall, plant garlic cloves four to six inches apart. Push each clove at least one inch into the ground before covering with soil and six inches of mulch for winter protection. While you may be lucky enough to see some garlic sprout before winter, you’re more likely to get a fresh crop in spring.

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Scallions

Scallions can be directly sown or transplanted into your August garden. If sowing seeds directly, sow four seeds per inch in rows 6 to 8 inches apart. Their tiny “bulbs” come in both white and deep purple and, like purple onions, purple scallions hold their color when cooked.

Hilary Dahl is a co-owner of the Seattle Urban Farm Company, where she helps beginning and experienced growers create beautiful and productive gardens.

Fall Garden Maintenance: Autumn Garden Ideas And Tips

A little fall planning and prepping can really rev up the spring season. Autumn is the time to clean up beds, manage soils, prepare sod and minimize problems in the new growing season. It’s also the time to plant spring blooming bulbs and pull out tender summer bloomers. Fall garden prep is one of those maintenance chores that will help guarantee a beautiful and bountiful garden next season. Follow a few fall garden tips for a worry-free winter and more free time in spring.

Fall Garden Maintenance

Fall garden prep before winter enhances the appearance of the yard and ensures that tender plants get some TLC to protect them before cold weather hits.

Planting New Plants

You can also use this time to sink spring bulbs and plant some cool season plants to fill in gaps in the landscape and brighten up the end of season garden. Some autumn garden ideas to add color to the landscape are:

  • Asters
  • Pansies
  • Kale
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Cyclamen

After fall garden maintenance is finished, it’s a good time to plant shrubs and trees. They will get adequate moisture and a dormant period to minimize transplant shock.

Many gardeners think autumn means an end to gardening. It’s surprising what plants can be grown up until the first freeze or even after in mild climates. Extend your harvest by using row covers, mulch and cold frames. Shop the late season sales for vegetable starts. You can plant most of the Brassicas, such as cabbage and broccoli. In mild climates, you can start hard-necked garlic. Lettuces, radish and some root crops are also good fall gardening tips for the veggie grower. Cover any crops if snow or an extended freeze is expected.

Clean Up Old and Unwanted Growth

The end of the season is the time to remove your spent vegetable plants, clean up plant debris and weeds, and winterize your lawn furniture and water features. Some easy autumn garden ideas include raking leaves onto the lawn and mowing them with a grass catcher. The resulting mix of nitrogen and carbon makes an excellent cover for the vegetable garden, which will enhance the fertility in spring and help prevent weeds.

You can also use this time to get rid of nuisance plants. Since many of your plants will lose leaves or die back, it is a good time to use a foliar, systemic herbicide on those problem plants like morning glory.

Put the Garden to Bed

Dig up and bring in any sensitive bulbs or tubers. This will depend on your USDA plant hardiness zone, but anywhere there is an extended freeze plants should be brought indoors.

Removing plant debris and raking will decrease pest, disease and weed seeds that overwinter. Empty the compost bins and start a new batch. Spread the compost around the base of sensitive plants that can use the extra layer as a blanket. Plant a cover crop on your vegetable garden.

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