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What Vegetables to Plant in Fall

What Vegetables to Plant in Fall

Tomatoes to Rest, Potatoes to Harvest, Brassicas to Plant

What vegetables to plant in fall and when? Autumn is best for brassicas! Cooler weather brings fresh air, beautiful colors and relief from summer heat and bugs.

We look at fall gardening as another chance to get things right and improve on what did well in the early season.  There are a number of wonderful vegetables to plant in fall that provide ongoing harvesting of densely nutritious greens many of them hardy fall brassicas.

We’ll get into best fall vegetables to grow as well as when to plant fall vegetables in this article.

Fall Garden Clearing, Cleaning and Maintenance

Sweet potato and potato towers have been harvested. The sweet potatoes fared better than the potatoes, but not by much, and our potatoes in large pots or half barrels did better than the experimental potato towers.

Most of the tomatoes are history, except for the few extra pounds gained from all the delicious M & M (mater and mayo) sandwiches we enjoyed all throughout the summer.

We have now converted the straw bale block of tomatoes, grown in a cattle panel “cage”, into a fall garden of brassicas and chard. By the by, the tomatoes did quite well in this mega cage system designed to keep squirrels out.

We just need a few less plants next year to reduce overcrowding, which can hinder airflow and contribute to the spread of tomato blight. So we pulled and burned the remains of any blighted plants.

HOMEMADE TOMATO CAGE. Cattle panel tomato cage. Image by GardensAll.com #GardensAll #TomatoCage #DIYTomatoCage #HomemadeTomatoCage #CattlePanelTomatoCage
Mid-stage of the GardensAll Straw Bale Tomato Cage System

What Vegetables to Plant in Fall?

The actually timing of planting is determined by your specific growing zone. With such a wide range it’s hard to cover them all, so we’re speaking here to an average mid-range grow Zone 7. Those in warmer and colder regions will need to adjust accordingly to your zone. You can also consult with your local extension service or search “Fall Gardening in [your area]”.

Fall gardening actually begins — on average — with plantings from mid July through mid September. However, what vegetables to plant in fall depends on your zone, your choice of plants and growing aids, like frost covers, greenhouses and indoor growing spaces.

Hardy vegetables such as kale, turnip, mustard, broccoli, and cabbage, tend to flourish during the cool fall days and can withstand light frosts. In some cases, a frost can actually enhance the flavor of these crops.

Favorite Fall Gardening Vegetables to Plant

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage, including Chinese cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Collards
  • Dandelion
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Legumes:
    • bush beans
    • snap peas
  • Lettuce
  • Mizuna
  • Mustard
  • Potatoes, Irish
  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Turnip:
    • greens
    • roots

Exotic and Unique Fall Garden Vegetables

NOTE: We’ve included Amazon affiliate links as well as non-affiliated Baker’s Creek links to help you see and choose your preferred sources and for quick visual reference and purchase options. Rareseeds (Baker’s Creek) is also a GREAT resource for exotic and unusual vegetable seeds. You can find other garden seed companies here.

Baker’s Creek didn’t have potatoes and the blue/purple potato sellers we saw on Amazon had poor reviews. So you might buy some from your local grocer — some carry them — and create your own potato slips to plant.

Our Fall Plants

For our fall garden, we planted the basic staple vegetables and salad greens. We eat lots of salads, and enjoy a variety of special salad greens. Some went into the composted remains of the straw bales, others directly into dirt in mesh lined, critter proof beds, including:

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Collards
  • Corn salad
  • Dandelion
  • Lettuce
  • Mizuna
  • Mustard:
    • red splendor
    • Japanese red mustard

We’d love to grow the exotic Romanesco broccoli — but like cauliflower — the “Fibonacci broccoli” didn’t fare well for us. Likely due to the ongoing issue of not enough sunlight. But it’s such an enchanting vegetable that we’ll definitely try it again when we can create more sunny spots.

The issue with gardening in the woods is that while you can cut down the trees to clear for a garden, the trees surrounding the yard and garden perimeter still cast long shadows. And while that’s an ongoing issue for us, we love the woods and don’t want to sacrifice more trees. So we make do with ingenuity of vertical gardening, and planting those plants which we can grow without full sun.

If you have good experience growing any of these more exotic vegetables, we’d love to hear about it and see your photos if you have them.

FALL VEGETABLES TO PLANT. LIST OF FALL VEGETABLES TO PLANT. Image by GardensAll.com #WhatFallVegetablesToPlant #FallGardening #FallPlanting #GardensAll
The tomatoes done, cattle panels removed, we planted in what remained of the straw bales, rigged for row covers.

Eat Some Leaves too!

Of course we’re all familiar with eating the leaves of varieties of lettuce, spinach, kale, cabbage and chard, as well as collards and turnip greens. But there are so many more plant with leaves that are also edible, and more or less desirable depending on preparation.

One bonus feature of the brassicas, is that you can pick the leaves in moderation, as the plant grows to maturity. That goes for broccoli, brussels, and cauliflower, as well as kohlrabi. The greens can be eaten cooked like your favorite greens, or raw. We like them roasted, steamed, in stir fry, juiced, chopped into soup, salad or shredded into slaw. Most cruciferous greens rival the heads and florets in nutrition.

These plant greens can also be dehydrated and made into vegetable powder, which can be added to all sorts of things to enrich and fortify both the nutrient content and the flavor.

The leaves in this category will include those that most of us would never find in a grocery store, and most not even at the Farmers’ Markets.

We’re listing most of them here, not just the fall plants because you may wish to harvest leaves of plants that have come to the end of their fruiting cycle. It’s most often the younger more tender leaves that are the most desirably edible ones, however, even the older leaves have food value that can be put to use through dehydration and powdering.

Edible Plant Leaves

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Kohlrabi
  • Legumes
  • Okra
  • Onion
  • Peppers
  • Radish
  • Squash
  • Turnip

For edible plant leaves you don’t love to eat, you can make DIY homemade greens powder them to add to foods like vitamins to fortify dishes, smoothies, green juices and salad dressings.

Roots to Shoots

While most people, even some gardeners don’t know that many of these vegetable leaves are edible, it used to be common practice and knowledge, known as “roots to shoots”. Making the most of a plant by putting every part to use as food or medicine, wasn’t just a good idea, it often meant survival.

So while you’re branching out into making good use of less common foods, have fun learning new ways to prepare and enjoy them. You’ll be in good company with some of the finest gourmet chefs of the world who consider it an exotic meal to be able to sprinkle pea leaves and blossoms as a finishing touch to a fancy dish. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to include edible flowers!

FALL VEGETABLES TO PLANT. Mini Cold Frame, Frost Cover, Plant Cover. Growing Kale and Mizuna (Japanese mustard). Image by GardensAll.com #GardensAll #FallPlanting #VegetablesToGrowInFall #FallCrops #ColdFrame #FrostFrame #PlantCover
Red Russian Kale and Mizuna (Japanese mustard) now occupy our mini-tunnel.

Fall Growing Season

We’re including some winter crops in this section, because depending on the growing zone, some of these can grow beyond fall into the winter gardening as well.

To calculate the time to plant a particular vegetable for the latest harvest in your area, you just need to know:

  • the average date of the first killing frost
  • number of days to maturity for the variety grown

Choose the earliest maturing vegetable varieties for late plantings.

Fall Planting Times***

The formula below for determining the number of days to count back from the first frost will help determine when to start your fall and winter garden.

COUNT BACK THE NUMBER OF DAYS from seeding or transplanting outdoors to harvest, PLUS…
+ Number of days from seed to transplant if you grow your own
+ Average harvest period
+ Fall Factor (about two weeks)*
+ Frost Tender Factor (if applicable); 2 weeks**
= Days to count back from first frost date

*The “Fall Factor” takes into account the slower growth that results from cooler weather and shorter days in the fall and amounts to about two weeks.

**Frost sensitive crops must mature two weeks before frost in order to produce a reasonable harvest.

***RESOURCE: Fall Vegetable Gardening by Virginia Relf, Virginia University Extension service.

As indicated earlier, for specific gardening guides for your area, check with your local extension service. Most of them have all kinds of resources and guides available online, including downloadable PDFs.

Frost Sensitive Crops

Almost any crop that isn’t grown for transplants (transplants are full plants) can benefit from pre-sprouting. Sprout seeds indoors, allowing them to reach a length of up to an inch. Sprouted seeds may be planted deeper than normal to help prevent drying out, and they should be watered well until they break the soil surface. Care should be taken not to break off the sprouts when planting them.

And while you’re at it… plant a tray of those seeds for microgreens!

Getting into Fall Gardening Mode

We started with our Garden Planner — a favorite garden tool — for sorting out what summer veggies were due for harvest and replacement. For example, the tomato “Compound” was an easy pick.

GARDEN PLANNER, tomato cage area is replaced by fall crop of brassica plants. Image by GardensAll.com #FallPlantsToGrow #VegetablesToPlantInFall #WhatVegetablesToPlantInFall #FallCrops
Our straw bale tomato block was planted in May and removed in early September after last harvest, then replaced by fall vegetables.
GARDEN PLANNER IMAGE of our fall crop of brassica plants. Image by GardensAll.com #WhatToGrowInFall #VegetablesToPlantInFall #FallCrops #FallPlants #Brassicas #Broccili #Kale #GardensAll #FallGardening
Fall crops were planted in September in zone 7a, of broccoli, kale and chard. The Garden Planner helps determine variety, timing, and spacing.

Ask Your Ag

For a comprehensive list of plants for Fall for your growing zone, check out your area Agricultural Extension Service. Most have lists of vegetables to plant by dates specifically relevant to your needs, and many also have free downloadable PDFs that you can print and append to your wall to reference as you’re making your garden plan.

Try Growing Something New

Of course you old-timers already have this down pat, but there’s always something new to learn. There are also many different varieties to grow that may be new to you and worth give it a try. We love to grow at least one new and exotic variety of vegetables each year. For us this year, it’s the tetsukabuto squash, tree collards

Preparing the Fall Garden

Preparations include cleaning up and in many cases, destroying by burning the dead, diseased, and dying plant remnants. We raked the beds and refreshed them with compost. Unnecessary structures were removed and supports were retrofitted for row covers (more on this later).

The soaker hose was reset and we left the timer on to keep the beds moist. It’s important not to let the soil dry out while transitioning to new plantings, as you need to continue to nourish the worms and organisms living there.

NOTE: Now we prefer using a drip irrigation system.

Keep soil moist in between plantings to nourish the worms and organisms living there.

Frost Covers

We planted our autumn crops in relatively mild weather, but then the daily temperatures headed back into the 90’s here in zone 7. The white gauzy row cover cloth was tented over the new beds affording some shade and helping retain the moisture. Since then, temperatures have moderated and the plants are off and growing strong. For temperature checks of the garden soil and air, plus year round for our greenhouse, we’re really liking our laser thermometer.

We put the row covers on now mainly to guard against insect invaders. But we also remove the covers to air out the beds and inspect for slugs.

For frost covers, we’re using Easy Tunnel, Harvest Guard, and AgriBon, and all seem about equal. The Easy Tunnel is simplest for saving time constructing all the plant cover hoops yourself. Of course you pay a little more for that convenience, but when comparing costs, you should factor in all supplies plus your time to make it before deciding, especially if you have less spare time.

Earlier in the new fall gardening season we may need to use the row covers to protect the cold-weather plants from warmer days. Later the plant covers will be used to extend the growing season by protecting plants from frost.

Even if you have a greenhouse, if it’s a small one like our cattle panel greenhouse, you can extend your growing capacity by also using row covers. The point is, it’s good to have structure in place that will allow for a quick cover as needed.

It won’t be the prettiest garden look. In fact your pretty garden patch may come to resemble a tent city, but those vibrant fall veggies growing will be a site for sore eyes and fresh food to help keep you and your family healthy.

This is right after our first Fall planting. We've expanded with several more rows since then.
This is right after our first Fall planting. We’ve expanded with several more rows since then.

Tune Into the Weather

As the season cools and if you still have tender crops like tomatoes, okra, peppers, and the like, keep tuned in to your local forecasts and be ready to fast-harvest those veggies which are frost intolerant. In light frost situations, you may try covering your tender plants with burlap, a box, blankets, baskets. or whatever you might have handy.

For perennials, clip out the dead parts, top dress with aged manure or compost, and lay mulch down to minimize heaving of the soil during freeze/thaw cycles.

Fall Garden Maintenance and Clean up

The last phase of garden clean-up involves collecting all the remains of your plantings and disposing of them by bagging to have it hauled off, or burning (especially any diseased plants) if that’s legal in your area. You don’t want to leave disease or bug ridden remnants in your garden only to have them come back with a vengeance in the spring.  Also, you don’t want to have the same pests and diseases occupying your compost pile.

Cut back the old bramble canes (like raspberry and blackberry), and you can tend to your strawberry beds as well, even digging and transplanting the nice looking runners. Place a generous cover of lightweight mulch over the bed (but take out any leftover weeds first).

Once your crops are tended, pull up all unneeded trellises, stakes, cages, and other support structures. Clean off any stuck debris and store in a protected place where they’ll be handily accessed in the spring. Bundle stakes and roll up wire trellises (if you can). Zip ties come in handy for this.

Find more on fall garden maintenance here.

FALL GARDEN CLEANUP: Compost the good, bag or burn the bad.

Fall gardening-composting-cleanup
Fall Garden Cleanup – Image by M W from Pixabay

Preparing Your Fall Garden Soil

Now that you have a clean garden patch, it’s a great time to work in some organics like compost and well aged manure. Fork or till them in and let them go to work all winter building up the microbial activity in the soil.

Add on shredded leaves, sawdust, wood chips or other organic matter. The cycles of freezes, thaws, and snow cover will also assist in integrating the organic material. Garden winterizing is like pulling a blanket up over a sleeping child… it’s a fitting way of putting your garden to bed for the winter.

RELATED: Best Cordless Leaf Blower

Wishing you a fantastic fall garden and abundant harvests.

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