Planning on tending a fall garden? Didn’t even know you could do that? Here are the best things to grow during autumn months.
If you’re an inexperienced gardener—or just want to put in less effort this growing season—fall may be the perfect time to get started.
Depending on where you live, fall may actually be “the easiest of them all,” wrote Mike McGrath for a recent episode of “You Bet Your Garden,” a publicly broadcasted radio and TV show.
This is because, in the fall, you don’t have “the cool, wet soil of spring to deal with, nor the sometimes-ungodly heat of summer,” McGrath explained.
Learn more about which vegetables grow best in the fall, as well as when to plant them for best results.
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In the fall, “the soil is still nice and warm, so the seeds of lettuce, spinach, kale, and other greens will sprout rapidly at this time of year.” McGrath says. This makes this season an optimal time to grow greens.
“I grow all my lettuce and such in big containers on my patio: half-whiskey barrels, grow bags, my brand-new raised bed on legs, and smaller containers placed on tables,” McGrath says.
The benefit of growing greens in containers is that it prevents rabbit damage and makes harvesting more simple, McGrath explains.
Related Reading: How to Grow Your Own Salad Greens
Beets make a great fall crop and tend to take on a brighter color when planted in the autumn, rather than in the spring.
It’s important to note that you should sow seeds for a beet bed at least seven to eight weeks before the first expected frost.
“Beets germinate quickly, but you want to give them plenty of time to mature before the cold weather sets in for good,” according to the Farmer’s Almanac.
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When planted in the late summer, you may be able to enjoy turnips by Thanksgiving. On the other hand, if you plant them in early fall, you can typically expect a late fall harvest. Like with all garden vegetables, timing is key here!
What makes turnips an optimal crop for autumn? For starters, turnips do well in cool weather. Temperatures around 60 degrees Fahrenheit are optimal.
If you start early enough, carrots can make a great fall garden vegetable. But just be sure to keep in mind, you typically need to plant them at least 12 weeks before a frost.
However, should you start a bit late, be sure to insulate them using thick plastic sheeting and cut off the green tops. This will help them to better maintain their sweet, crunchy flavor.
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Another cold-tolerant crop is cabbage that you can grow in the fall before harvesting—and, if you’re a fan—fermenting into a big batch of sauerkraut to enjoy during winter months.
When planting, it’s a good idea to start by growing cabbage plants under indoor grow lights 12 weeks before the cold weather hits. That way, you can transplant the seedlings to your outdoor garden about six weeks before the frost.
Pro tip: For best results, be sure to plant your cabbages about 12 to 18 inches apart.
Swiss chard is a great veggie to put in the ground in mid-summer after you’ve removed any remaining traces of spring vegetables in your garden. “Seed it then, and continue harvesting throughout the winter,” according to the Farmer’s Almanac.
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While peas are often thought of as a summer crop, they can be grown in the fall in warmer parts of the US.
And while a blanket of snow won’t damage emerging pea plants, you should be vigilant about how low the temperature drops. This is because multiple days of temperatures in the teens could end up wiping out your pea crop.
“Be prepared to plant again if the first peas don’t make it. Alternatively, try starting your peas in a cold frame,” according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Similar to other salad greens, collard greens to well when growing in the autumn. Like the other plants in this list, collard greens need to be planted around six to eight weeks before the frost.
Once harvested, collard greens can be used in many of your favorite dishes; try these slow cooker collard greens and collard greens with dumplings.
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Broccoli is one of those vegetables that tend to do better when there’s a bit of frost. Why? Because broccoli will start to bolt or flower when under too much stress from hot weather, according to a Michigan State University Bulletin, titled “Fall Vegetable Crops for Your Garden.”
For this reason, broccoli is one of those vegetables that can stand a bit of cooler weather. But despite their cold hardiness, keep in mind that they should be planted six to eight weeks before the first frost.
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, “Broccoli seeds are capable of germinating in soil temperatures as low as 40°F (4°C), but warmer soil is preferred and will greatly speed up development.”
There you have it! Nine different varieties of vegetables that are suitable for planting in a fall garden. “Grow the correct plants and fall gardening will deceive you into thinking you’re actually good at this!” says McGrath.