It’s not too late to plant one last garden. Plant now, and enjoy harvesting these 17 veggies through the autumn, into early winter and some even all the way through winter.
If your want to ramp up the flavor and nutrient value of your fall meals, consider planting the season’s last garden using quick-growing crops such as greens, cabbage and radishes. It’s not too late to get plants in the ground for fall and winter harvests and definitely if you live where winters are mild. In fact, many plants get sweeter in chilly weather, and some hardy plants can be pulled right out of the snow for fresh eating like carrots and onions.
If the thought of fresh-picked salads and hearty, nutritious sautéed greens on your fall table appeals to you, use the information here to sow your fall garden and enjoy homegrown flavor, nutritious produce this fall and winter.
A few of the plants listed here can still grow from seed, but for most you will want to use transplants to make the most of the remaining growing season depending on how quickly it gets to freezing in your area. If you haven’t already started seeds for transplanting, seek out transplants from garden centers. The ornamental kale and cabbage for sale are not only pretty, but also edible! Check well-stocked local stores for sturdy, healthy-looking plants.
Make sure to add a scoop of finished compost to planting holes and organic fertilizer to add nutrients to soil that may be depleted after the summer harvest. Espoma is readily available at most big box and hardware stores. For greens type veggies, the general vegetable garden fertilizer is a good choice.
Choose the Right Varieties
In addition to choosing the right plants for cold-weather harvests, you can also increase fall and winter harvests by planting specific varieties. Look for varieties marketed as: fast-maturing; short and compact; textured (such as curly kale and Savoy spinach), winter-hardy, frost tolerant, overwintering, for every season, year-round, remarkably cold hardy, etc.
Because daylight hours are getting shorter in the fall, you will need to add about 2 weeks to the “Days to Harvest” your seed packet gives as the seed packet dates are based on spring planting.Plants grow slower in fall because the days are getting shorter instead of longer.
The list below starts with the produce that will be ready for harvesting the quickest. You will want to get the slowest growers (at the bottom of this list) in the ground as soon as possible; you may be able to continue sowing seeds of some of the fastest crops into October or beyond. Those that are planted as transplants can be ready 2-3 weeks sooner than the dates listed below.
If sowing seeds, be sure to keep the soil moist. Seeds sown in the fall have the same needs as seeds sown in the spring. Outdoor seed starting tips
Fall planting notes: For small and fast maturing radishes, broadcast seed directly in beds, or use chicken wire as a guide to space seeds 1 inch apart. Harvest after a few weeks in the ground and before the bulb becomes too hot and fibrous. You can sow seeds once a week for continuous harvests.
Fall planting notes: Transplant seedlings about 6 weeks before first frost. Harvest the leaves around the outside of the plant; always leaving 5 leaves on each plant. This will let you harvest for weeks from the same plants. Other hardy greens include miner's lettuce, corn salad, sorrel, arugula, salad burnet.
Fall planting notes: Sow seeds directly into the garden or pot. Harvest the leaves around the outside of the plant; always leaving 5 leaves on each plant. This will let you harvest for weeks from the same plants. Winter hardy greens include miner's lettuce, corn salad, sorrel, arugula, salad burnet, cultivated dandelions.
Ready for harvest in: 6 to 12 weeks for leaf lettuce; 11 to 13 weeks for head lettuce
Can survive frost: Yes (depending on variety-tryWinter density, Rouge d’Hiver, No Name Red Leaf, Arctic King, Continuity, Salad Bowl, Mottistone to name a few)
Fall planting notes: Keep transplants indoors until soil cools. Lettuce seeds won't germinate in hot soil temperatures, above 75-80F. You can also broadcast seeds in cool soil every two weeks for a continuous harvest. I like starting my seeds in a pot in a cool area and then transplant into the garden. Harvest in early morning for best taste and structure.
Fall planting notes: I like getting the transplant pots with several colors; then separate and plant into the garden. Harvest sequentially as leaves mature, 1 to 2 outer stalks per plant; be sure to leave at least 5 significant inner stalks per plant for continuous harvesting.
Fall planting notes: Plant seedlings deep, leaving 1 to 3 leaves above soil. Heads grow fast. Harvest before flowering begins. May produce secondary heads. Harvest edible leaves, too — they are even more nutritious than the buds. I love the leaves in salads.
Fall planting notes: Carrots don't appreciate being transplanted. Sow directly in the garden or pot. You can use the thinnings as tasty baby carrots and salad additions. If you do start in a pot to transplant, handle the transplant carefully and make sure its main root is pointing straight down when transplanted. Harvest mature roots at maximum diameter while they are still sweet.
Fall planting notes: Plant seedlings deep, leaving 1 to 3 leaves above soil. Cauliflower heads often develops in just a few days. Harvest at full size, before it begins to yellow. Making sure the head is covered by the leaves keeps the head a nice white.
Ready for harvest in: 11 to 13 weeks
Survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Grows best in very fertile soil. Plant seedlings deep, leaving 1 to 3 leaves above soil. When a node begins to grow a bulge out of the stalk to form a sprout, remove the leaf just below it to optimize growth. Harvest when sprouts are at maximum plumpness, before outer leaves become fibrous and sprouts becomes bitter. Sprouts can be harvested well into winter.
Ready for harvest in: 10 to 13 weeks
Survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Transplant when seedlings are about 3 inches tall or sow directly in the garden. Choose best seedlings (healthy and vibrant green) to transplant. Harvest outer stalks carefully, leaving 3 to 5 large stalks per plant for continuous harvests.
Fall planting notes: Plant seedlings deep, leaving 1 to 3 leaves above soil. Harvest outer leaves to leave inner leaves to continue growing. In mild climates, collards can be harvested all winter long. Baby leaves are good in salads, larger leaves are great steamed or cooked.
Ready for harvest in: Next spring for mature onions, 6 weeks for green onions
Survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Onions, leeks and shallots like loose, rich soil. Be sure to plant varieties for the length of daylight your zone has in the summer. It is the number of daylight hours that stimulates the onion to form bulbs. In our lower Midwest garden, we need intermediate onion types. Don't be tempted to grow Vidalias in Minnesota; they just won't make bulbs.
Fall planting notes: Inoculate the seeds to get the nitrogen nodules that support more vigorous growth and nitrogen in the soil. There are snow peas that are ready to harvest in just 30 days.
How Low Can You Go?
Depending on where you live, you may be able to get a decent vegetable harvest even into early winter. Several plants will grow well into the snowy months, and a good frost sweetens them by forcing the plants to make more frost-protecting sugars.
Can Survive Hard Freeze
(nighttime temperatures between 25 and 28 degrees):
• Brussels sprouts
• Cabbage, regular
• Fava beans
• Lettuce (depending on variety-look for winter hardy)
In fall, promote faster growth by packing plants a bit more tightly than you might normally do. You can extend your growing season by adding thick layers of mulch around plants, or by using season-extending techniques such as row covers. When nights get chilly, protect plants by covering them with a cloth or blanket. Extend the season with protection for plants