What to Plant for a Fantastic Fall Harvest

July 28, 2011

I START MY FALL VEGETABLE GARDEN no later than the first week of August. This gives seeds and plants (like the turnips above) time to grow and mature before Jack Frost checks their progress. If you want to avoid the supermarket this winter, or if your summer veggies didn’t live up to your expectations, you might like to plant a late-season garden, too. What to grow, and how to achieve a fantastic fall harvest:

The secret to a successful autumn harvest begins with a trip to the National Climatic Data Center, where you will discover your average first frost date. Next, determine when to plant by checking your seed packet for “days to maturity.” Then count backwards from the first predicted frost. If you live in the North, as I do, be sure to tack on an extra week just to be safe.

If your fall crops are going into the same beds where other, recently-harvested plants (like garlic and onions) grew, you’ll definitely want to add nutrients to the soil before planting. Add finished compost if you have it, or do what I do, and simply sprinkle a balanced, organic fertilizer over each bed, and then dig it in with a garden fork. Lightly digging with the fork has the added benefit of loosening and aerating the soil, too.

What to plant in your fall garden? Well, consider the same veggies you’d normally grow in spring. These cool-season crops can handle a touch of frost. Furthermore, they tend to flourish in milder weather and with lessening hours of sunlight. I’ve achieved terrific fall harvests from each of the following:

Cucumbers ‘National Pickling’ – 52 days to harvest

Broccoli ‘Green Giant’ — 55 days

Radish ‘Crimson Giant’ (and most others) — 29 days

Peas ‘Dark-Seeded Early Perfection’ — 60-65 days.

Carrots – ‘Touchon’ (and most others) – 65 days

Spinach – ‘Bloomsale Longstanding’ – 48 days*

Lettuce ‘Paris Island Romaine’ – 60-70 days

Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ – 60 days

Turnips (all varieties) – 30-60 days*

Green Beans (all varieties) – 50-60 days

Arugula – 35 days (you can harvest leaves about 3 weeks after planting)

* I plant a row of these every 2 weeks right through September

Although spinach, peas, beans, carrots and turnips are easily started from seed in mid- to late-summer, broccoli and other Brassicas are not. Consequently I buy these as transplants from a local farm store. Such seedlings are an insurance policy for we who live in the North, where the autumn growing-season is short.

If you are planning to plant a fall vegetable garden, I’d love to hear what you intend to grow. Mind dropping me a note in the comments section below?

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Related Posts:

Preserving the Harvest

Houseplants

Recipes

Comments

  1. I like collards and kale. Sometimes we grow turnips.

  2. The Japanese Redneck – those are all great selections. Do you freeze your collards and kale for winter use?

  3. Donna B. says:

    Thank you for listing the types of plants! I'm hoping for a more successful fall harvest this year!
    Didn't do very good planning last year and planted stuff either too early, or too late.
    Although, a bit bizarre, I have some broccoli that were direct-seeded in spring, that grew but didn't bolt, and NOW they're heading! I dunno if I did something right, but I'm happy~ Hehe!

  4. Donna B. – Ditto here. Broccoli has always formed heads for me by mid-June. This summer, my open-pollinated 'Nutri-Bud' broc didn't produce any heads until mid-July!

    I've just set out 30 more broccoli plants for fall harvest. Keeping my fingers crossed.

  5. Melissa P. says:

    Wow, thanks Kevin. Our local extension office posts questions on fb and the first person to answer correctly gets to go in and pick out 75 packs of seeds from their office. I will print your list and go in search of my fall garden. I had no idea there was so much you can still plant! I live in KY so the list is probably even longer here.

  6. Melissa P. – What a nifty giveaway your local extension is offering. Hope you win!

    You who garden in Kentucky (zone 6) are blessed with a nice, long growing season. Start your fall crops now, and you'll have plenty to put away for winter.

  7. Cary says:

    As usual, Kevin, your post speaks to my condition right now! Thanks too for sharing varieties you are trying! Happy Day! Question, do you already have a red tomato? Mine are just beginning to turn a paler green, I think. Maybe just wishful thinking :) !

  8. Cary – I picked my first ripe tomato yesterday, an heirloom named 'Eva Purple.' Eva made a delicious tomato/basil/mayonnaise sandwich. More such sandwiches to come soon, I hope!

  9. Oh man, can't wait for that first tomato- none here yet. You're making me want to add more veggies to my flower beds, Kevin, but there's hardly any room and sodding a new area, ugh!

  10. Cary says:

    Hooray! Glad to hear it. Know you appreciated it a whole year's worth :) ! So far, I am the hornworm with wasp egg queen, ick! Your sandwich sounds perfect. Happy Summer!

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