Fall Garden Planning

Now is the time to plan for a productive fall garden. Here’s everything you need to know to enjoy fresh, nutritious cool-weather crops this autumn.

| July/August 2012

  • Greens and lettuces are ideal candidates for cool-weather gardening in nearly every part of the country.
  • Tuck pinches of arugula into rows of shallots and onions; they’ll grow quickly and smother any weeds that might overtake your slower growers. Suggested varieties: Astro, Sputnik
  • To keep soil from forming a crust that will inhibit beet seedlings from emerging, cover newly planted rows of beets with boards or cloth, and remove it as soon as the little seedlings peek through. Suggested varieties: Chioggia Guardmark, Red Ace, Shiraz, Touchstone Gold
  • Opt for broccoli varieties that produce plenty of side shoots, rather than a single large head. Suggested varieties: Diplomat, Marathon, Packman
  • Consider storage ability when choosing carrots for your fall garden. Suggested varieties: Bolero
  • Large and architecturally interesting, consider planting collards as edible landscaping in areas of your yard that you want to make more attractive. Suggested varieties: Champion, Flash
  • All varieties of kale have superior flavor when temperatures drop into the 20s or below. Suggested varieties: Black Tuscan, Winterbor, Red Russian, White Russian
  • Several lettuce varieties will hang on into December and, with the protection of heavy mulch or a cold frame, will often return with renewed vigor in early spring. Suggested varieties: Rouge d’Hiver, Marvel of Four Seasons, Winter Density
  • Mâche, or corn salad, continues to grow when lettuces go dormant in winter. Suggested varieties: Golden Corn Salad
  • Grown in cool weather, versatile radicchios have a mild, spicy flavor. If some outer leaves are damaged by the cold, simply strip them off. Suggested varieties: Variegata di Luisa Tardiva, Variegata di Castlefranco, Rossa di Verona, Grumolo Rossa di Verona
  • For a continued harvest of spinach, snip off individual leaves as you need them, keeping the central rosette intact. Suggested varieties: Olympia, Space, Tarpy
  • Green varieties of Swiss chard tend to be most cold hardy, followed by gold, then pink, magenta and red varieties. Suggested varieties: Fordhook Giant

With tomatoes, peppers and melons now hitting their late summer stride, it’s easy to forget that autumn can be as abundant as spring and summer. But those who seize the opportunity for a second season will find the planning worthwhile as they munch on garden-fresh produce as Halloween approaches.

The steps to a bountiful fall garden are simple: Choose crops suited to fall growing conditions. Ensure your site has organically enriched soil and adequate water. And start now.

Replace spring-planted crops with new plantings that mature in fall. Seeds and transplants will take off quickly in warm summer soil. When deciding what to plant for fall, gardeners throughout most of the country should focus on greens and root vegetables, says John Navazio, a plant-breeding and seed specialist at Washington State University Extension and senior scientist for the Organic Seed Alliance in Port Townsend, Washington.

In nearly any part of the country, you can grow these cool-weather crops into autumn: leafy greens such as lettuces, spinach, arugula, chard and mâche; root veggies such as beets, carrots, turnips, radishes and rutabagas; brassicas including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale and Chinese cabbage; and peas. In many regions, some of these fall crops will survive the winter to produce a second harvest in spring.

If you garden where winters are mild, you can grow all of those crops plus heat-lovers. “Here, we set out tomato transplants in late August,” says David Pitre, owner of Tecolote Farm, an organic farm near Austin, Texas. Pitre plants okra, eggplant, peppers, winter squash, cucumbers and potatoes in August and September for winter harvest. In warm climates, wait to plant cool-weather crops until after temperatures cool—in late September or after.

Fall is also prime garden season in the Pacific Northwest, where abundant rain and cool (but not frigid) temperatures are ideal for growing brassicas, root crops and leafy greens planted in mid- to late summer. The hardiest of these crops often hang on well into winter if given protection such as row covers.

8/10/2014 7:47:51 PM

I keep getting an error page when I click on the National Climate Data page link.

9/10/2013 5:28:14 PM

Thanks Vicki, I never considered fall gardening even possible, now I'm on the hunt for good seeds that can grow during this period. Found some here http://gardenbuddy.org they sort them by planting-zone.

9/10/2013 5:28:01 PM

Thanks Vicki, I never considered fall gardening even possible, now I'm on the hunt for good seeds that can grow during this period. Found some here http://gardenbuddy.org they sort them by planting-zone.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: October 13-14 2018
Topeka, KS

Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on natural health, organic gardening, real food and more!