Vegetable gardening in the southeast

Planting Fall Vegetables

Summer might be high season in the vegetable garden, but autumn brings wonderful rewards as well. Fast-growing salad crops will revive the most bedraggled fall gardens, and good care can keep sweet root crops and cabbage cousins growing for several weeks beyond the first frost. The tips below will help you extend your vegetable season long beyond the heat of summer.

The secret to having great fall garden vegetables is timing. That means thinking a little differently because you have to plan backward.

Start with your area’s average first fall frost date. Then look at the number of days to harvest for planting fall vegetables. You should be able to find that number on the seed packet or in the catalog description. Use that number to count back from the first frost date. Then add two weeks, because many fall vegetables grow more slowly as days shorten in fall.

Here’s an example: If your first fall frost typically occurs around October 31 and you want to grow ‘French Breakfast’ radishes, which mature in about 25 days, you’d plant them around September 22.

Getting the Garden Ready

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Make room for your fresh crop of fall vegetables by ripping out any varieties that are no longer performing well (such as tomatoes that have succumbed to disease or peas that have burned out from the heat) or you have already harvested (potatoes, onions, or sweet corn, for example). Pull any weeds so they don’t steal moisture and nutrients from your new young plants.

If your fall garden vegetables have a lot of clay in the soil of the garden, it’s helpful to work in some organic matter, such as compost, to get your fall vegetables off to a great start.

Starting from Seed

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You’ll probably grow most of the fall planting vegetables for your fall garden from seed. Use the extra seeds you didn’t plant in the spring or purchase new ones. Happily, many garden centers put their seeds on discount late in the season, so you might be able to save a lot of money by planting fall vegetables. Want to save even more money? Save your seeds from last year’s crop.

The basics of starting with seeds are the same in autumn as in spring—use a high-quality seed-starting mix for best results. If you reuse the containers you used for your seeds in spring, be sure to wash them in a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water to kill any disease organisms that might be lurking about.

Test Garden Tip: If you live in a hot-summer climate, you might need to start seeds of your favorite cool-season vegetables indoors; many do better in air-conditioning than they do in the heat. If you start your seeds directly outdoors, plant them a little deeper than you would in spring; the soil is typically moister and cooler an extra inch or two down.

Caring for Your Garden

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It’s especially important to keep your vegetable plants well watered during the hot months of July, August, and even into September. The general rule is that most fall garden vegetables do best with about an inch of water a week in spring, summer, and fall. Once your seedlings or transplants are established, aim to give them one deep watering a week rather than several lighter waterings.

There may already be pests and diseases in your garden, so keep an eye out for holes or spots on plant leaves. Deal with insects and diseases promptly to minimize the damage.

Extend your growing season later into fall by protecting your plants from frost. A cloche is a classic, elegant way of protecting individual small plants. But for larger areas, cover the garden with an old sheet, blanket, tarp, or row cover.

Crops for Speedy Harvest

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Get a last blast from your veggie patch with quick crops that go from seed to table in 40 days or less. Sown in September, sprinters such as arugula, mustard, spinach, turnips, and crispy red radishes are ready to harvest in little more than a month. Also try pretty Asian greens, such as tatsoi or mizuna, which grow so fast that you will have baby plants to add to stir-fries and soups just three weeks after sowing.

Perhaps you will plant beets, carrots, green onions, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, and cabbages such as cauliflower and kohlrabi. Plant fall vegetables in late summer for fall harvest; in Zones 8-10, plant these crops as late as December. These fall vegetables can handle light frost, which actually makes them sweeter.

The hardiest fall vegetables—spinach and kale—often grow well into early winter. Thin crowded spinach to give the plants plenty of elbowroom, and stop picking leaves when freezing weather arrives. When protected by a blanket of snow or a plastic tunnel, spinach can survive winter and produce a flush of sweet leaves first thing in spring.

Vegetables Suited for Fall Gardens

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All of the fall garden vegetables below are suitable to plant in the fall. Some, such as beets and carrots, might need to be harvested when very small (but still tasty). When shopping for seeds, select the earliest-maturing varieties available.

  • Beet
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrot
  • Cauliflower
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce
  • Radish
  • Spinach

Vegetables That Will Survive a Frost

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The varieties of fall garden vegetables listed below will survive below-freezing temperatures if given some protection. During the first spell of cool weather, cover them with a blanket, cardboard box, or plastic tunnel. In Zones 8-9, where temperatures rarely dip below 20˚F, these fall vegetables will grow all winter. Dig beets, carrots, rutabagas, and turnips when the roots become plump and crisp; old plants left in the ground might develop unsightly cracks.

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard
  • Rutabagas
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnips

Late Season Gardening

Fall gardening, or second plantings. Whatever you call this midsummer pursuit, its goal is the same—to prolong the growing season and reap more from your precious garden real estate, even after the peak of summer.

Getting Started

Vegetable gardening returns its greatest dividends when your plots produce food from spring throughout summer and right up until first frost. Just because you’ve harvested your early-maturing vegetables doesn’t mean you have to buy those crops at the local grocery store or put away your gardening gloves come August. In fact, in many areas of the country, myriad crops can be planted in midsummer for a fall harvest. And who doesn’t enjoy eating the fruits of their labor for eight months of the year instead of just a few?

The following tips will help you use your garden space longer and more efficiently to produce even more homegrown fruits and vegetables.

Know Your Hardiness Zone and First Frost Date

Knowing the average first frost date for your region will allow you to calculate “planting deadlines” so that your young plants have time to mature before the temperatures fall and the first frost hits. Consulting the USDA hardiness zone map will help you determine whether a particular plant can thrive and survive in your part of the country. These two tools will help you determine not only which crops you should plant but also when you should have those crops in the ground.

Choose Crops Wisely

Two types of plants are good bets to thrive when planted in midsummer—those that mature quickly and those that tolerate frost.

Paying attention to maturation time is key because crops planted in the summer months take longer to mature than those planted in the spring as shorter days/less daylight and cooler air temperatures combine to slow plant growth. (The good news? While your fall plantings make take longer to mature, they will face fewer threats from pests this time of year.)

To ensure your plants mature in time for harvest, add a few extra days to the “days to maturity” guidelines typically found on seed packets and then count back the total number of days on your calendar to arrive at your summer planting date. Quick-maturing vegetables include beets, bush beans, carrots, cucumbers, kohlrabi, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, and zucchini. And if some of those quick-maturing crops don’t mature fast enough to elude the first frost, you can easily use row cover or garden fabric to protect them from too-cool temperatures.

Crops that will tolerate a light frost and keep growing even when temperatures drop include most brassicas (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and kohlrabi), as well as carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, scallions, spinach, and turnips. Some of these cold-tolerant vegetables—particularly kale and Brussels sprouts—actually taste better when grown in cool weather as they react to cold by producing sugars which then sweeten them. Take note, however—while spinach, turnips, rutabagas, and scallions can be direct sown, you will need to start most brassicas indoors weeks before the midsummer planting period.

Pull and Plant

This one’s easy—as soon as early-season plants (think lettuce) have passed their prime and appear close to bolting, pull them out and replant a different crop in that space. Rotating crops will help avoid diseases particular to one plant type and balance nutrients in the soil.

Cool and Enrich the Soil

Summer, of course, brings heat, and toasty temperatures can easily roast newly sprouted seeds. The best way to prevent that from happening is to keep the soil moist, mulched, and shaded, if possible. Natural shade from a trellis or tall plant, for example, can be used to create a cool location for seeding a second crop. Finally, don’t forget the importance of rich soil—be sure to replenish the nutrients in the soil between plantings by mixing in compost and organic fertilizer.

Summer is almost over (nooooo!), but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to have a backyard garden full of delicious, fresh veggies. Some garden vegetables actually thrive in the cooler fall weather, and now is the perfect time to plant them. Plus, some of us even prefer fall gardening, which promises a rainbow of homegrown goodness with lower humidity, fewer bugs, and WAY less melting-in-the-midsummer-heat sweat and sunburn. Win-win! Get ready to get your hands dirty with these hearty vegetables to plant in fall.

Roasted brussels sprouts grace many a Thanksgiving table. bhofack2Getty Images

The best vegetables to plant in fall

Cruciferous vegetables—like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and cabbage—love the cooler temperatures of autumn. Hardy greens like arugula, kale, spinach, and chard, and root veggies like carrots, radishes, and beets, also grow well in the fall, so you have a big choice of salad ingredients even after pool-float season comes to an end. (There’s a reason many of these veggies are Thanksgiving classics—it’s when they’re at their peaks!)

Colorful radishes grow quickly in cool fall soil. mzajacGetty Images

When to plant vegetables in fall

Check the long-term weather forecast in your area to make sure you’re planting well before the first frost. (The Farmer’s Almanac has a frost-date feature on its website that can tell when it will be for your zip code!) But many of these vegetables actually taste sweeter if you wait until after a frost to harvest them: The cold can concentrate their sugars. Some things grow fairly quickly from seed, like radishes, which thrive in cool soil and can be ready to harvest just weeks after planting a seed—in fact, you can plant several rounds of radishes a week or two apart, so that when you pick one salad’s worth there’s another round waiting in the wings! (Or, you know, in the soil.)

For slower growers, like brussels sprouts, it might be smart to start with pre-grown seedlings. If you’re not sure, check with your local nursery to see what will do well in your area. And whatever you make with your veggie haul, be sure to take pictures so you can remember the goodness—winter is coming, like it or not.

Need some inspiration? Watch designer Bunny Williams plant her perfect vegetable garden!

Vegetable Seeds for Fall Planting

Seeds of Change Certified Organic Cherry Radishes $2.23 Seeds of Change Certified Organic Broccoli $3.49 Seeds of Change Certified Organic Carrots $2.79 Seeds of Change Certified Organic Dinosaur Kale $2.79

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Michele Petry Deputy Managing Editor Michele Petry is the Deputy Managing Editor of House Beautiful; she has edited home, lifestyle, food, and fashion content for magazines including Elle Decor, Food & Wine, and Marie Claire.

Vegetable Gardening In The South

The South is known for long, lazy summer days and stretches of hot, humid weather. These warm conditions are ideal for growing most vegetables, but Southern gardeners face a few unique conditions.

First, if you’re going to grow vegetables in the South, you must adjust planting times to accommodate the searing heat of summer. Most of the South lies in USDA Plant Hardiness zones 8 through 10, which means mild winters and hot summers. Leafy crops such as spinach, lettuce, and kale bolt at the first hint of heat. Ditto for brassicas, including broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Plant these crops in January to February and opt for heat-resistant varieties. If you can, plant greens and cole crops in partial shade to keep them cool, which will extend the growing season.

Warm-season crops, such as tomatoes, beans, corn, and peppers are usually planted between March and April, depending on your climate. Again, choose heat-resistant varieties such as cherry or grape tomatoes. Another trick is to plant seeds, such as bean seeds, slightly deeper than the packet says. Deeper planting ensures adequate moisture for germination.

Another problem in the South is that of disease and insect pests. High humidity combined with year-round mild weather encourages fungal diseases and bugs. To combat disease, plant disease-resistant varieties and space plants so air circulates freely. Practice crop rotation so a crop doesn’t grow in the same place for at least three years. Avoid planting tomatoes near potatoes, blackberries, or peppers, because these crops share the same diseases. Use soaker hoses rather than overhead sprinklers and water in the morning so leaves dry off quickly. Avoid working in a wet garden, which quickly spreads disease. Remove and destroy all infected plants quickly. Sometimes, garden soils become heavily infected with disease. Try moving your garden to a new location or spread a sheet of clear plastic over the garden during the heat of summer. Secure the plastic tightly with landscaping pins or rocks and leave it in place for three months. The heat generated during this process, known as solarization, is capable of killing most soil diseases, as well as weed seeds.

To combat insects, hand-pick horn worms and beetles and drop them in a bucket of soapy water. Treat aphids and leafhoppers with insecticidal soaps and oils. Use organic pesticides such as Bt and rotenone whenever possible. Install floating row covers over newly planted crops to thwart flea beetles and other small insects. Eliminate crops that are consistently plagued by insects.

Rid Your Home And Garden Of 98 Percent Of Unwanted Insects And Bugs…Without Dangerous Chemicals…

Southern soil varies widely, from the black soils of Mississippi to the sandy soils of Florida. Most soils are acidic, although a few are alkaline or chalk. Vegetables grow best in well-draining soils with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5. Take a soil sample to a university extension office to determine your soil’s pH, as well as its structure and nutrient level. Follow the recommendations offered in the soil analysis to improve your soil. For example, you may have to add dolomitic lime to raise the soil pH if it falls below 6.0. Compost and manure can improve both clay soils and sandy soils. In some cases, your best bet may be to haul in new garden soil.

Most regions of the South get plentiful rainfall mixed with dry periods. During monsoon periods, your garden may get too much of a good thing, which promotes disease and can inhibit pollination of fruiting crops. During dry periods, plan to irrigate your garden with soaker hoses and drip systems.

Fertilize vegetables every four weeks with a balanced vegetable fertilizer or a few shovelfuls of manure. Wait until fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers produce blooms before fertilizing.

Vegetables To Grow

Tomatoes: The long, warm growing season found in the South is ideal for growing tomatoes, although heat spells can inhibit pollination and ripening. Choose disease-resistant varieties and plant tomatoes so the bottom leaves are covered by the soil. This deep planting encourages a strong root formation, which encourages a healthy plant better able to fight off disease.

Okra: The South is the only place in the U.S. where this plant reliably grows.

Sweet potatoes: Southern gardeners may have limited success with cool-season crops, such as Brussels sprouts, but long-season vegetables such as sweet potatoes thrive here.

Corn: Plant GMO-free corn in blocks that contain at least four rows. Corn is wind-pollinated, so planting using this method ensures a more abundant harvest. Corn is susceptible to several diseases, such as smut, which live in the soil.

Chile peppers: Chile peppers appreciate a long, warm growing season. Reduce water as fruits reach maturity to increase their heat and flavor.

Greens: Collard greens are synonymous with the South. Plant them in January or February and keep the soil cool and moist.

Onions: Southern gardeners can grow long-season sweet onions such as Vidalia. Give onions light, well-draining soil and plenty of moisture.

Peaches: Peaches don’t tolerate frost, but they thrive in much of the South. The trees generally produce fruit reliably for only fifteen years or so, so plan to replace them after a few years.

Blackberries: Raspberries don’t grow well in warm climates, but blackberries thrive here. Thornless varieties are easier to harvest, but some people find their taste less appealing than the thorned types.

Grapes: Try growing muscadine grapes or European wine grapes. Choose disease-resistant varieties.

©2013 Off the Grid News

Book Review:

The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening

in the Southeast

by Ira Wallace.

January 2014, 200 pages, $19.95. ISBN-13: 978-1-60469-371-3

This book will be valuable primarily to new vegetable gardeners and those moving to the Southeast. Of course, experienced gardeners always want to learn from each other, so I encourage anyone growing food in our region, or its neighbors, to take a look. The writing and format are clear and accessible, the index is excellent, so you can quickly find the topic you want. The scale is backyard, not farm. That said, this book could be useful for new farm interns to learn crop basics, timing, and how things are done without fancy equipment. It has the advantage of clearly setting out the basic information without being overwhelming.

The Southeast has been “traditionally underserved” in terms of vegetable gardening books, so having this compilation of tips for our climate, the names of reliable regional varieties, and the encouragement to start in any month and harvest in every month, is valuable beyond price. There are great gardening writers elsewhere in this big country, but nothing beats learning from someone who really knows the territory. Ira learned gardening in her grandmother’s yard in Florida, and has grown food in Virginia for many years. It is hard to translate northern books which talk of ground frozen solid for months in winter, or curing onions out in the September sun. Beginners will have a much happier time starting out with a book written for the actual conditions they will encounter. Gardeners moving from other climate zones will get useful information about working with “the quirks of our climate”; fall gardening, winter gardening, hot weather crops like southern peas and okra. For instance, did you know why gardeners in hot climates don’t sow in hills? They dry out too much (the gardeners as well as the hills!).

This book is intended mostly for those in the lands where the American Holly grows. This is zones 6-9, with bits of 5 and 10: the Southeastern Coastal Plains, Piedmont, Appalachians, Interior Plateau and Ozarks. Winters are temperate, summers are hot and humid, and there is a wide range of seasonal crops. We need to start spring crops early, to get a harvest before temperatures heat up; we need to add organic matter frequently, as it burns up fast in hot humid conditions; we need to know about shading.

The Gardening 101 section includes many helpful tips on soil tests, garden planning and rotations and cover crops. There are lists of crops by season and by ease of growing in our climate. As the introduction says, “Happily, gardening is a year-round activity in our region”, so there is a month-by-month section listing tasks and possibilities.

The Month-by-month section includes a To Do page for each month with panels on Plan, Prepare and Maintain, Sow and Plant, and Fresh Harvest. There is also a Skill Set panel each month covering topics such as making compost, setting up drip irrigation, building shade structures. Each month has a theme: Sowing Seed Indoors for February, Beating the Heat in July. The tone is encouraging and helpful for beginners and climate migrants alike.

My one quibble is that the drawings don’t always seem to exactly fit the text, and I wish there could have been some photos. Luckily, Ira is from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and their website has plenty of photos of crops in action and includes a sun symbol for varieties especially suited to the Southeast.

There is a nice description of working against the shortening days and cooling temperatures of fall to get crops established in the “living refrigerator” outdoors – filling it up to draw from later. Plan for crops to mature in late November, before growth slows right down. There are a lot of critters out there, though, so bring in what you can for storage. Also, plan to have some crops reach half-size, be protected over winter, then rapidly grow in early spring for first harvests of the new growing season.

Part 3 of the book is an A to Z of crops, starting with two Planting and Harvesting Charts, one for the Upper South and one for the Lower South. These cover 38 crops or groups of closely-related crops. Then each crop has around one page of details, divided into paragraphs on Growing, Harvesting, Varieties and Seed Saving.

The Resources section includes seed and plant suppliers, community organizations, weather and climate resources, companies selling tools and supplies, soil testing services and more good books (blush, including mine). There is a Glossary, to demystify any terms you don’t know – soon you will!

If you live in the Southeast and are new to growing food here, you’ll learn a lot from this book and its clearly arrayed information. If you live around the Southeast, you’ll probably also learn some tips (think of Pennsylvania as the “Upper Southeast”!). If you’re a farmer with new interns about to arrive, get this book for your library. If you’re an experienced vegetable grower in our region, take a look too – I bet you’ll find some new ideas.


Follow this planting guide for growing cooler-weather produce that thrives.

Many vegetables are well adapted to planting in the summer for fall harvest, which will extend the gardening season so you can continue to harvest fresh produce after earlier crops have finished producing. The fall harvest can be extended even further if you protect the plants from early frosts or plant them in cold frames or hotbeds.

Many cool-season vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, produce their best flavor and quality when they mature during cool weather. In Alabama, the spring temperatures often heat up quickly making vegetables such as lettuce and spinach bolt or develop a bitter flavor when they mature during hot summer weather.

Growing a productive fall vegetable garden requires thoughtful planning and good cultural practices. In Alabama, August and September are the main planting times for a fall garden. Depending on your specific location, you may need to adjust the planting dates. For a more accurate planting schedule, determine the average date of the first killing frost in the fall, and then count backward from the frost date, using the number of days to maturity to determine the best time to plant in your area.

Preparing the Site

Before preparing the soil for a fall garden, you must decide what to do with the remains of the spring garden. In most cases, the decision is not difficult because the warm-season vegetables are beginning to look ragged. Remove the previous crop residue and any weed growth, and then till or spade the soil to a depth of at least 6 to 8 inches.

If the spring crops were heavily fertilized, you may not need to make an initial preplant fertilization. If not, you can apply 1 to 2 pounds of a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 per 100 square feet of bed space. Be sure to thoroughly incorporate the fertilizer.

Planting the Fall Garden

Direct seeding, which involves planting seeds rather than using transplants, for crops such as broccoli, cabbage, and collards is often used in the fall. However, the success of this planting method depends on having adequate moisture available to keep the young seedlings actively growing after germination. An overhead sprinkler can help provide seeds with sufficient moisture to germinate.

Alabama summers can be hot and dry, and soils may form a hard crust over the seeds. This crust can interfere with germination, particularly in heavy clay soil. Lettuce and spinach seeds will not germinate if the soil temperature exceeds 85 degrees F. Be sure to keep the soil moist until the young seedlings have emerged.


Most vegetables require 1 inch of water per week. It is best to make a single watering that penetrates deeply rather than make frequent shallow applications. However, young seedlings and germinating seeds may need more frequent, light waterings. Do not allow seedlings to dry out. New transplants will also benefit from frequent light waterings until they develop new roots.

Many fall-maturing vegetables benefit from sidedressing with nitrogen just as spring-maturing vegetables benefit. Most leafy vegetables benefit from an application of nitrogen 3 and 6 weeks after planting.

Insects and Diseases

It is not uncommon for insects and diseases to be more abundant in the fall, mostly as a result of a buildup in their populations during the spring and summer. You may be able to keep these pests at tolerable levels, if you follow a few strategies. Strive to keep fall vegetables healthy and actively growing because healthy plants are less susceptible to insects and diseases. Check the plants frequently for insect and disease damage. If significant damage is detected, use an approved pesticide. Certain vegetables, such as squash, corn, and cucumbers, are especially insect- and disease-prone during late summer and fall.

Frost Protection

You can extend the season of tender vegetables by protecting them through the first early frost. In Alabama, we often enjoy several weeks of good growing conditions after the first frost. Cover growing beds or rows with burlap or a floating row cover supported by stakes or wire to keep the material from directly touching the plants. Protect individual plants by covering them with milk jugs, paper caps, or water-holding walls.

Most semihardy and hardy vegetables require little or no frost protection, but semihardy vegetables should be harvested before a heavy freeze, and root crops such as carrots and radishes should be harvested or mulched heavily before a hard freeze. Mulched root crops can often be harvested well into the winter, and during mild winters, harvest may continue until spring.

Suggested Fall Vegetable Planting Guide

* In north Alabama, planting dates should be approximately 2 weeks earlier in the fall. For south Alabama, planting dates should be approximately 2 weeks later in the fall.

Vegetables Suggested Planting* Specific Characteristics Inches Between Plants Planting Depth (inches) Cold Tolerance Days to Maturity
Beets July 15 to August 15 Ruby Queen, Early Wonder, Red Ace, Pacemaker II 2 0.5 to 1.0 Semi-hardy 55 to 60
Broccoli July 15 to August 15 DeCicco, Packman, Premium Crop, Green Duke, Emperor 18 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 70 to 80
Brussels sprouts July 1 to 15 Long Island Improved, Jade Cross Hybrid 20 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 90 to 100
Cabbage (plants) August 1 to 15 Round Dutch, Early Jersey Wakefield, Red Express, Red Rookie 12 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 70 to 80
Cabbage, Chinese August 1 to 15 Pak Choi, Mei Ching, Jade Pagoda, China Pride 12 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 75 to 85
Carrots July 1 to 15 Danvers Half Long, Spartan Bonus, Little Finger, Thumbelina, Scarlet Nantes 2 0.25 to 0.5 Hardy 85 to 95
Cauliflower August 1 to 15 Early Snowball “A”, Violet Queen, Snowcrown 18 0.5 to 1.0 Semi-hardy 55 to 65
Collards July 15 to August 15 Vates, Morris’ Improved Heading, Carolina, Blue Max 18 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 60 to 100
Cucumbers August 1 to 15 Poinsett 76, Sweet Slice, County Fair ‘83, Salad Bush, Fanfare 10 1.0 to 1.5 Tender 40 to 50
Kale August 15 to September 1 Green Curled Scotch, Early Siberian, Vates, Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch, Blue Knight 6 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 40 to 50
Kohlrabi August 1 to September 1 White Vienna, Grand Duke Hybrid 4 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 50 to 60
Lettuce (leaf) August 1 to September 1 Grand Rapids, Salad Bowl, Buttercrunch, Red Sails, Romulus 6 0.25 to 0.5 Semi-hardy 40 to 50
Onions (seeds) September 1 to 30 Texas 1015, Granex 33, Candy 4 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 130 to 150
Onions (sets or plants) September 1 to 15 Ebenezer, Early Grano 4 Hardy 60 to 80
Radishes August 15 to September 15 Early Scarlet Globe, Cherry Belle, Snowbells, White Icicle 1 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 25 to 30
Radish, Diakon August 15 to September 15 April Cross, H. N. Cross 4 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 60 to 75
Rutabagas July 1 to August 1 American Purple Top, Laurentian 4 0.5 to 1.0 Semi-hardy 70 to 80
Spinach August 1 to 15 Hybrid #7, Dark Green Bloomsdale, Tyee Hybrid 6 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 50 to 60
Turnips August 1 to 31 Purple Top White Globe, Just Right, Tokyo Cross Hybrid, White Egg, All Top 2 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 55 to 60

Download a PDF of Basics of Fall Vegetable Gardening, ANR-1422.

By Bethany A. O’Rear

Q: My summer vegetable garden has finally bit the dust (no pun intended), but I am just not quite ready to put the garden tools up for the season. Can you give some details on growing vegetables in the fall?

A: As summer nears its end, it is time to gear up for another planting (and future harvest) season. This month is the perfect time to get your cool-season vegetable seeds and/or transplants in the ground. While several cool-weather crops can survive when planted in spring, they typically do not thrive, especially in spring weather like we experienced this year. Many cool-season vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, produce their best flavor and quality when they mature during cool weather. In Alabama, the spring temperatures often heat up quickly making vegetables such as lettuce and spinach bolt or develop a bitter flavor when they mature during hot summer weather.

As with any garden, careful planning and good garden management are crucial to your success. The first step is site preparation. Before preparing the soil for a fall garden, you must decide what to do with the remains of the spring/summer garden. In most cases, the decision is not difficult because the warm-season vegetables are beginning to look ragged. Remove all crop residues and weed growth, and till or spade the soil to a minimum depth of 6-8 inches.

If the spring crops were heavily fertilized, you may not need to make an initial preplant fertilization. If not, you can apply 1 to 2 pounds of a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 per 100 square feet of bed space. Be sure to thoroughly incorporate the fertilizer.

The next step is deciding on a planting method. Most cool-season varieties are available in seed and transplant form. If you choose to sow seed, maintaining adequate moisture is imperative to germination as well as continued growth after germination. An overhead sprinkler can help provide seeds with sufficient moisture to germinate. We all know how hot and dry late summer in Alabama can be, so be sure to keep the soil moist until the young seedlings have emerged.

Now, you should begin your regular vegetable garden maintenance routine. Continue to water based on the needs of the plants. As the plants mature, move from frequent, light waterings to single, deep applications. Like their spring-maturing relatives, most fall-maturing vegetables benefit from nitrogen sidedressing

It is not uncommon for insects and diseases to be more abundant in the fall, mostly as a result of a buildup in their populations during the spring and summer. You may be able to keep these pests at tolerable levels, if you follow a few strategies. Strive to keep fall vegetables healthy and actively growing. Check plants frequently for insect or disease damage. If significant damage is detected, use an approved pesticide.

You can extend the season of tender vegetables by protecting them through the first early frost. In Alabama, we often enjoy several weeks of good growing conditions after the first frost. Cover growing beds or rows with burlap or a floating row cover supported by stakes or wire to keep the material from directly touching the plants. You can protect individual plants by covering them with milk jugs, paper caps, or water-holding walls.

Good luck and happy gardening!

Garden Talk is written by Bethany A. O’Rear of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). She is housed at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticultural and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This column includes research based information from land-grant universities around the country, including Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Email questions to Bethany at [email protected] or call 205-879-6964 x15. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Everyone is welcome!


Savor summer longer

By Katie Jackson

Ah July, the month when we can practically wallow in summer fruits and vegetables. Yet even as the supply becomes almost overwhelming, are you already lamenting the time when there will no longer be a summer tomato to slice or zucchini squash to roast?

There’s a perfect way to alleviate that premature sorrow: Plant a late summer/early fall garden.

One of the perks of living and gardening in Alabama is that we have a long growing season, which allows us to continue growing many summer crops well into the fall. Admittedly it may be hard to set aside time from harvesting, weeding, watering and maintaining your current garden. However, if you love the taste of summer, it’s worth taking time to install transplants of tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, eggplant, beans and cucumbers. Just make sure to choose varieties that mature before your area’s first typical fall frost date.

Another way to extend the taste of summer is to keep a fresh supply of annual summer herbs going by sowing basil and cilantro seeds every few weeks directly into the garden or into pots so a new crop is coming on regularly. I keep indoor pots of basil going year-round, reseeding the pots each month so I never have to do without a sprig of basil even in January and February.

Once you’ve got that late summer garden in, don’t forget that July is the month to start seeds for more traditional fall crops such as rutabagas, pumpkins, winter squash and the many “c” crops of fall—collards, cauliflower, cabbage and carrots. Come August you can keep planting seeds for many of these fall crops and begin seeds for kale, lettuces, turnips and other leafy greens as well as for the “b” crops—beets, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

Don’t know what to plant when? Check out the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s “Planting Guide for Home Gardening in Alabama” ( publication, which has a great year-round planting chart to guide you.

If you want to escape the heat this month, chill out with a cool drink and some seed and plant catalogues. It’s never too early to start planning next year’s garden and you can literally spend hours exploring the options.

Advice on variety selection or myriad other gardening issues is available through your local Extension office, Master Gardener groups and area garden shops, but don’t forget one of the best sources of help in the world—fellow gardeners, especially those who have gardened for years, who have hands-on knowledge of what works, or doesn’t work, in your area. They have likely already made all the mistakes, mistakes you can avoid simply by relying on their experience.

July Gardening Tips

  • Water lawns, landscapes, container plants and vegetable gardens deeply and avoid watering during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Mulch shrubs and trees and add mulch and compost to garden beds to help retain moisture in the soil, keep roots cooler and suppress weeds.
  • Plant heat-tolerant annual and perennial flowers.
  • Remove (deadhead) fading flowers from annuals, perennials and summer-blooming lilies.
  • Keep an eye out for insect and disease problems in the lawn, landscape, garden beds and on potted plants.
  • Keep birdbaths and hummingbird feeders filled with clean, fresh water or sugar solution, respectively.
  • Turn your compost.
  • Harvest fruits and vegetables early in the day for best flavor and quality.

Photo: Justin Russell

  • In temperate and arid/semi-arid climates August is prime potato-planting month. Seed taters can be purchased now, and those you’ve had in storage since autumn will have already ‘chitted'(sent out new shoots). Toward the end of the month plant them into soil enriched with plenty of compost and rotted manure. Aim for a pH around 6–7. Potatoes are members of the Solanaceae family and like a slightly acid soil.

  • Also plant peas, leafy greens, salad greens, radishes, turnips, beetroot, carrots, broccoli, cabbages, broad beans, spring onions, leeks, globe artichokes and frost-hardy herbs.

  • In the subtropics and tropics, plant sweet potato at the end of the month. Choose a site with free-draining soil, and as for regular spuds, enrich it with plenty of rotted muck. For a small sweet potato patch plant a few small tubers, or for a bumper harvest, plant cuttings. These are know as ‘slips’, in sweet potato vernacular, and and can be cut off a tuber that has already started to shoot.

  • In frost-free climates you can also plant all of the varieties mentioned above plus bush and climbing beans, sweet corn, tomatoes and basil. Hold off on the heat-loving summer vegies (such as cucurbits, eggplant, etc.) until next month.

  • Finish planting bare-rooted trees, shrubs and vines this month. Bare-rooted perennials such as rhubarb, asparagus and horseradish should also be planted before the onset of warm weather.

  • Try growing edible flowers as a colourful ingredients in salads. My favourites include Johnny Jump Ups (Viola tricolor), nasturtium, calendula and borage, though the flowers of almost any edible herb can be eaten. If in doubt, check online or in a reference book as to a flower’s edibility.

  • Olive trees are lovely plants to have in the garden and they’re widely adapted to climate zones throughout inland and southern Australia. An interesting way to combine the olive’s beauty and productivity is to grow a row of plants as a hedge. Choose a single, dual-purpose variety such as Manzanillo or plant a mix of varieties favoured for either oil or fruit.

By: Justin Russell

First published: July 2017

The Veggies You Need to Plant in August


When to plant: the first week of August
Days until harvest: 55 to 65
How to use them: Roasted beets are flavorful and so simple to prepare. Once you’ve made them, you can use them a variety of ways, like as a salad topper or a side dish. Our favorite, though, is serving them chilled with goat cheese and herbs. Raw beets make great juice blends, too (if juicing is your thing). Although raw beets store well, you can make them last even longer if you try pickling. It’s easier than you might think, and it is a great way to preserve a bumper crop.


When to plant: late July to early August
Days until harvest: 70 to 80
How to use them: Pretty much everyone knows how to cook this calcium-filled veggie. But there are some perhaps less-obvious applications than the steamed, stir-fried or roasted options you’re used to. Mince them and mix them with an egg, breadcrumbs, cheese and seasoning, then form them into “tots” that you can bake in the oven for healthy finger food.

Brussels Sprouts

When to plant: late July to early August
Days until harvest: 60 to 90
How to use them: Quick fry them in a super-hot pan with lemon juice and garlic, and you can’t go wrong. The smell alone is intoxicating. But Brussels sprouts offer a lot of freedom to experiment. They are delicious raw, shaved into a salad or slaw. They can be tossed whole onto a barbecue grill and cooked alongside your protein. And perhaps the easiest application: Roasting them in the oven. Perfection.

Lettuce and Salad Greens

When to plant: early to mid-August
Days until harvest: 35 to 50
How to use it: There are so many varieties of lettuce that you can plant that will thrive in southwest Missouri and create a plentiful fall harvest. Experiment with different leafy veggies to see what you like best in your salads: spicy arugula, tender butterhead lettuce and crunchy loose leaf lettuce. Toss them with some fresh herbs and your favorite toppings for something way more delicious than the bagged salad you get at the store.


When to plant: anytime in August
Days until harvest: 25 to 35
How to use them: Pickle these pups! A quick and easy pickling recipe for classic red radishes calls for vinegar, salt, sugar, red pepper flakes, cilantro and fresh jalapeño. The result is something spicy and tart that looks as good as it tastes on top of homemade tacos.


When to plant: early to mid-August
Days until harvest: 40 to 50
How to use them: There are the obvious applications (like salads), but spinach is also fun to use for creative entrees. Purchase some pre-made phyllo dough, and make a batch of spanakopita. The savory Greek pastry is packed with this green leafy vegetable, along with pungent feta cheese. It’s a great, shareable way to show off your harvest.


When to plant: late July to mid-August
Days until harvest: 50 to 60
How to use them: Gather up a variety of root vegetables (turnips, parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes), the ground meat of your choice and lots of fresh herbs, celery and other flavor-makers, and whip up a dish of shepherd’s pie topped with mashed potatoes.

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