Spring isn’t the only suitable time for planting your vegetable garden and you should consider to plant some new vegetables for your fall vegetable garden. There are a lot of vegetables that are well adapted to planting in the summer and early fall for the fall harvest. Planting a fall garden will extend your gardening season so you can continue to harvest fresh produce after earlier crops have finished. You can extend your fall harvest even further by providing protection from early frosts or by planting in cold frames or hotbeds. Some of the best quality garden vegetables are produced and harvested during the fall season when warm, sunny days are followed by cool, humid nights. Under these climatic conditions, plant soil metabolism is low and more of the food manufactured by the plant becomes a high quality vegetable product. In this article we will cover everything that you need to know in order to have a plentiful fall or winter harvest in your vegetable garden.
Preparing the soil for Fall Vegetable Garden
Every project in your vegetable garden always must start with preparing the soil for planting. First you have to harvest and remove all your vegetables that you sow in the spring along with all the weeds. Don’t throw away or burn them, use them all for making compost. If you don’t know how to make compost then check out our Composting guide. Prepare your soil with tilling 6 to 8 inches and light fertilize the soil with a complete 10-10-10 fertilizer. This is necessary because high temperatures and watering have drained most of nutrients from the soil. If you want to learn more about preparing the soil be sure to check our Soil preparation tutorial.
When to plant your Fall Vegetable Garden
The time for planting is the most important thing for the successful fall vegetable garden. The time for planting is calculated backwards from the first expected frost. That’s because first “killing” frost usually destroys your fall garden and your vegetables must be ready to harvest before that happens. In the picture below you can find out the dates of expected first frost in the USA and then you calculate your planting time from it.
Don’t be discouraged if you live in a region with early first freeze because you can protect your plants from those early freezes. You can 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. For individual plants you can use milk jugs, paper caps, or water-holding walls. Most of the semi-hardy and hardy vegetables will require little or no frost protection. Semi-hardy vegetables should be harvested before a heavy freeze. Root crops such as carrots and radishes should be harvested or mulched heavily before a hard freeze. The harvest of mulched root crops can often be extended will into the winter. During mild winters, harvest may even continue till spring.
What to plant in your Fall Vegetable Garden
The most important part of your fall vegetable garden project is decision on what to plant. Most of people think that you can plant only few vegetables in the fall. The truth is that you can plant a huge variety of vegetables in your fall vegetable garden for a good and plentiful fall harvest. We will show you when and how to plant the most popular plants in your fall vegetable garden.
- Spinach: you need to sow seeds 5 weeks before first frost date. Sow the seeds 6 inches apart and 1 inch deep. The short days and cool, moist weather of fall is even better for spinach than spring. Your fall spinach harvest will probably be even better than your spring harvest. An established spinach crop will last well into winter and can survive really low temperatures. Spinach prefers very fertile soil to encourage rapid growth and tender leaves. Take notice that spinach needs 45 days to maturity, so plan your harvest accordingly. For a big fall harvest we recommend this Hybrid #7 Spinach seeds.
- Cauliflower: you need to plant seedlings 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost. Also, start one month earlier if you are planning to grow your own seedlings. Plant your seedlings 18 inches apart and 1 inch deep. Cauliflower can sometimes be tricky to grow but with rich soil and consistent watering you are going to succeed. 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. Remember that cauliflower needs 60 days to maturity, so plan your harvest accordingly. For a fall vegetable garden we recommend this Snow Crown Cauliflower seeds.
- Cabbage: you need to plant seedlings 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost. Plant the seedlings 12 inches apart and 1 inch deep. Remember that you need to start one month earlier if you are planning to grow your own seedlings. 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. You must know that cabbage needs 70 days to maturity, so plan your harvest accordingly. Among the variety of cabbage sorts we recommend this Round Dutch Cabbage that has proven to produce a plentiful fall harvest.
- Radish: this is probably one of most popular plants in every fall vegetable garden. You need to sow seeds for radishes 4 weeks before the first frost. Sow the seeds 4 inches apart and 1 inch deep. Winter varieties such as Champion, 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. Radishes don’t require feeding but the soil should be fertile and well drained. They are quick to mature so check them regularly. Radishes are ready to harvest as soon as they are of edible size and it takes about 25 to 50 days to maturity depending on variety. The most resilient type for a fall vegetable garden is this Champion Radish.
- Broccoli: you should plant broccoli seedlings 10 weeks before the first frost date in your area. This means that you need to plant them during the last hot summer days. Because of that, it’s very important to mulch around them to help keep the ground cool and moist. Plant the seedling 18 inches apart and 1 inch deep. Feed the plants at least 3 weeks with low nitrogen fertilizer after transplanting into the garden. Remember that broccoli needs 70 days to maturity, so plan your harvest accordingly. For a good fall harvest we recommend this Di Cicco Broccoli seeds.
- Lettuce: you need to sow lettuce seeds in the late summer. Plant the seeds 6 inches apart and 1/2 inch deep. Remember to provide young seedlings with consistent moisture and shade from the afternoon sun. Lettuce is ready for harvest from 45 to 60 days depending on type and variety. Almost all of lettuce types are suitable for a fall vegetable garden but we prefer this Buttercrunch or Butterhead Lettuce seeds.
- Brussels sprouts: this is ideal vegetable for fall vegetable garden because they really taste best when allowed to mature in cool weather. Set the plants out in mid-summer and plant them 20 inches apart and 1 inch deep. It will take about 3 months before the sprouts appear. They are ready for harvest when they are firm and green and they need around 90 days to maturity. The best type of seeds for a good fall harvest is this Long Island Improved Brussel Sprout seeds.
- Kohlrabi: although 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. Saw the seeds 4 inches apart and one inch deep during August and September. You need to shade the young plants from summer sun but after few weeks they are resilient enough to take even the first fall frosts. They usually need 40 to 60 days to maturity depending on variety, so plan your harvest accordingly. For a good and quality fall harvest we recommend this Purple&White Vienna Kohlrabi seeds.
Those are main eight vegetables for your fall vegetable garden and they will surely give a good harvest. Some will say that you can plant almost every vegetable for your fall vegetable garden but that is really specific for every climate region. With this eight vegetables you can’t go wrong and you’ll surely have a plentiful harvest in your fall vegetable garden.