Ultimate Guide to Fall Vegetable Gardening

Reader Contribution by Shelby Devore and Farminence
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Image by MetsikGarden from Pixabay

There are many reasons why you should plant a fall garden.  It’ll bring you more nutritious foods over the winter months and it will improve the health of your garden soil.

Yes, you read that right! Planting a fall garden will improve the soil health of your garden tremendously.  The crops in a summer garden will pull nutrients from the soil, especially nitrogen.  Many of the fall crops are leafy greens and they can help to put nitrogen and other nutrients back into the soil.  Double-win!

Best Fall Vegetables to Plant

Most of the cold hardy vegetables are leafy greens, root vegetables and plants in the cole family (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc.)  Try planting the following crops when the summer temperatures start to drop-

  1. Arugula
  2. Beets
  3. Broccoli
  4. Brussels sprouts
  5. Bunching Onions
  6. Bush Beans
  7. Cabbage
  8. Cauliflower
  9. Collard Greens
  10. Garlic
  11. Kale
  12. Kohlrabi
  13. Leeks
  14. Lettuce
  15. Mustard Greens
  16. Parsley
  17. Peas
  18. Radishes
  19. Spinach
  20. Swiss Chard
  21. Turnips

Most of these need to be planted a few weeks before the first frost. 

Since you don’t know when the first frost will happen, look up your local average first frost date.  Use this as a guideline to plant your crops.  When you purchase seeds, look on the back of the packet to see how long it takes them to reach harvest size. 

Count backward from you frost date to determine when to plant them.  Many of the crops can be planted in September and October.

Fall Gardening Tips

Plan on starting seeds.  Most garden centers won’t carry vegetable plants during the fall and cooler months.  Purchase seeds ahead of time and have them on hand to plant.  You can start seeds indoors or directly sow them into the garden.  Buying seeds also gives you more options on which cultivars you plant.  You won’t have to plant the plain jane crops if you don’t want to.  You’ll be able to pick varieties that have more color, are heirloom or are more productive.

Be prepared to water your fall garden a lot.  Summer gardens need watering, but fall gardens need a fair amount more water.  Cool weather crops are grown for their leaves and stems, both of which require a lot of water.  Watering should be consistent and frequent.  The water will help the plants stay cool.  Leafy greens that get too warm will bolt quickly.  If you have temperatures that get warm, use overhead watering to cool your plants off and to help prevent bolting.

Mulch your fall garden to help protect your plants.  Mulch protects the plants in a few different ways.  It helps prevent soil from eroding, especially when there is more rainfall.  Soil that erodes takes nutrients with it, so keeping soil in place keeps the nutrients in place also.  Thick mulch can also help protect tender fall crops from frost.  Some fall vegetables can handle a hard frost, some of them cannot.  Thick mulch will help keep the soil warm and a consistent temperature even with a hard frost.  Mulch for your garden doesn’t have to cost you.  Use pine needles, dead leaves, wood chips or grass clippings (without herbicides or seeds) to mulch the garden without spending money.

For more in depth information about fall gardening, check out this Ultimate Guide to Fall Gardening on Farminence.

Shelby DeVore is an agricultural enthusiast that enjoys writing about gardening, raising livestock and simple living. You can read her most recent posts on the Farminence website or follow Farminence on Pinterest and Twitter.

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