what to plant now for a fall vegetable garden

I’M WATERING THEN SHADING the garden beds where peas grew fat and sweet until early July, when their time was done.  The heat and calendar told them to stop, but I’m carrying on—making the now-empty spot hospitable for something else by cooling the soil a bit so something delicious for fall harvest will be happy to germinate, and get growing. But what will it be? Perhaps kale or more amazing ‘Piracicaba,’ broccoli (above, for which I have seedlings started) or carrots, beets, and more green beans? Those are only a few of many possibilities for a sustained harvest, even here in the North.

WHEN TO SOW OR TRANSPLANT what is always the question, and so I am including some links by state or region at the bottom to factsheets that might help you with cool-season choices. The possibilities here would work in much of the Northeast and similar zones to my 5B, in a spot where frost is expected no sooner than late September or early October. You can push it a bit in slightly warmer zones than mine, and in the warmest ones all this happens in fall for winter harvest–plus you get a wider palette of crops (again, those factsheets linked below will help).

my possible july-august plantings, northeast zone 5b

  • Arugula, from 21 to 40 days (baby or mature leaf size)
  • Bush beans, about 60 days (have insulating fabric ready if early cold threatens)
  • Beets and beet greens
  • Braising greens mix (mustard, kale, collards, Asian greens…)
  • Broccoli raab, about 40 days
  • Broccoli (60 days from transplants started about 15 weeks before first frost; do try ‘Piracicaba,’ whose florets are looser, delicious, and which easily produces lots of side shoots)
  • Cabbage (60 days from transplants started about 15 weeks before first frost) or Napa cabbage (about 10 days faster)
  • Carrots (a storage kind like ‘Rolanka’ plus some smaller types for fall eating)
  • Cauliflower (60 days from transplants started about 14 weeks before frost; needs covering if frost threatens)
  • Chard
  • Chicory, endive, radicchio
  • Cilantro
  • Collards, about 60 days but nice as a baby green
  • Cucumbers (bush type rated 60 days; I sowed these June 15)
  • Daikon (60 days) and other faster radishes
  • Dill
  • Kale, about 60 days but nice in half that time as a baby green
  • Lettuce, leaf and head type and mesclun mix, about 30 days to first cutting
  • Mustard greens, about 45 days (faster as baby greens to spice a salad)
  • Peas, shelling, sugar snap, and snowpea type
  • Radishes
  • Scallions and other hardy bunching onions, for fall use and to overwinter for spring
  • Spinach
  • Squash, summer variety, bush type (I sowed a 48-day variety July 1)
  • Turnips, 40-50 days, faster for greens, or rutabaga (90 days) if sown in earliest July or late June here; rutabaga

And don’t forget: Leave room for your garlic! It goes in around October locally, and stays till the next July or August. How to grow garlic, my favorite crop of all.

hints for making late-season sowings

  • Don’t skip the prep: Do cool down soil by shading for a few days and moistening so seeds have a chance, in particular.
  • Select a variety that’s a shorter number of days to maturity than its peers, or rated for late-season growing.
  • Count back from frost date but add extra time to the calculation, since days are getting gradually shorter and cooler as fall plants mature. Don’t expect them to produce as fast as in warming, lengthening springtime days.
  • As cold arrives, have insulating fabric (and hoops in some cases) at the ready.
  • The later timing may slow things and require a little extra help, perhaps, but it’s also a benefit: Often you outsmart pests, who might be done multiplying, and some crops (greens, peas, crucifers) may taste sweeter when ripening in cool weather.

sample fall planting calendars and guides

I SEARCHED FOR REGIONAL calendars for fall vegetable sowings–or in the case of the warmest zones, that would be a fall-sown, winter-harvested garden. Note that MANY of these links will pop up as pdf’s, not web pages, as they are formatted that way by their expert creators. Also note that in some cases, the late-season information is far down the page, below the timing and how-to for spring, so keep scrolling/paging through.

more?

58 comments
July 10, 2012

comments

  1. Marjie says

    Do you have a list for Ohio? I am in northeast Ohio, an hour south of Lake Erie. I looked at the Indiana map, thinking it would be relatively similar, but I don’t know that I could/should assume that. Thanks.

    • margaret says

      Hi, Marjie. The Ohio State Extension doesn’t seem to have such a document, so I’d choose another northern one and adjust for your frost dates (e.g., when I use the one from Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners, though I’m not in Maine, I shift a week or so).

  2. Gwen Gilpin says

    I live in SW Missouri and I want to know if you are gardening for raised beds only. I don’t have raised beds, will these plants do okay in the ground?

    • margaret says

      In the ground or in raised beds, and whichever you choose, add loads of compost and use a good organic mulch to love your soil.

    • margaret says

      I have never found a good one from a solid source for CT. Depending where you are, you could use one of the Long Island ones, like Nassau County (if you are coastal or thereabouts) or if you are in NW Connecticut (Litchfield County, e.g.) you’re more like me (a Zone 5B).

    • margaret says

      In the row of potatoes next to the empty soil, there is straw over the potatoes. I sometimes use straw for some crops, but mostly used rotted, shredded leaves (shredded and composted from the fall before or longer) or composted stable bedding.

  3. Cat Rowe says

    Hi Margaret~ can you tell me what size and type wood you used for your raised beds, and the dimensions of the bed itself? I have an area approximately 7′ x 18′. Thank you.

    • margaret says

      Hi, Cat. I use whatever rot-resistant, untreated lumber is locally available as 2-by-10s for a good price (here that’s locust). I get it at a local mill and don’t have both sides perfectly finished — I think it’s rough-planed, so but I forget the exact description–I just told them I wanted it for this purpose and they knew it didn’t have to be sanded/perfect on all sides/edges. I like my beds between 4 and 5 feet wide (wider is hard to reach across; even 5 is stretching it) and try to waste little lumber by using multiples or halves of common lengths like 8- and 10-footers.

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