what to plant now for a fall vegetable garden

I’M WATERING THEN SHADING the garden beds where peas grew fat and sweet until last week, 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 from organizations that might help you with your locale 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 and august plantings

  • 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 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.

prefer the podcast?

THE FALL VEGETABLE garden was one of the topics of the latest weekly podcast I do with WHDD/Robin Hood Radio in Sharon, Connecticut, the smallest NPR station in the nation. You can stream it, or subscribe free on iTunes or the Stitcher app. In that July 9, 2012 show we also talked a bit first about Japanese beetles.

36 comments
July 10, 2012

comments

  1. Barbara Bedick says

    Getting a lot of leaf drop on my river birches in Brooklyn, NY. Any advice? Watering more but afraid to over water everything else.

  2. Kat says

    Thank you so much for the info from California…I am always guessing especially as we have just recently moved to a new city and the micro-climate is a bit different than where we were living. Thank very much for the time I am sure it took you to find all that very valuable info that I am sure many gardners out there will appreciate like ME!!

    • says

      You are welcome, Kat. I was surprised I couldn’t find this for every state, but not so far. You are lucky that CA has a great statewide extension service through UC-Davis, and strong county information-sharing. Glad to help show off their good work!

  3. says

    Great post — reminds me of several things I need to do out in my meager garden! It is hard now since it is so hot, but I want to get some things going for the Fall, hope it cools down (in Sacramento) this Fall!

  4. says

    I vote for the spinach and the mustard greens! If I’m not mistaken, both should produce even after frost? (I had some spinach that overwintered – although it didn’t grow much – down here in Tennessee.) As for mustard greens, they’ve got to be the easiest crop to grow, except for the fact that cabbage worms devastated mine. I’d be interested to grow them in fall/winter to see if the worms were less of a problem in cool/cold weather.

    And have you thought about growing some Asian greens like mibuna, mizuna or tatsoi? Kitazawa Seeds has some really interesting options… http://www.kitazawaseed.com

    Have fun and look forward to seeing what you plant (and harvest)!

    • says

      Hi, Michelle, and yes — boards, burlap, etc. — but water well first. Anything you can rig up, really, to shade it a bit before planting (along with watering) and than I’m goign to try to time my sowing when there’s a cooler or (praying!) rainy spell ahead. Fingers crossed!

  5. Vanessa says

    The MD extension agency updated their growing list to a Gant Chart, which is much easier to use! Go to http://growit.umd.edu/ then scroll down to “Publications” and select “GE 007, Vegetable Planting Calendar “. It’s SO much easier to follow with the dates shown visually!

  6. says

    Wow is right. Thank you, Margaret, for the link to NC as I’ve been wondering when to plant Asparagus crowns in my new veggie garden. And, I will reseed carrots and dill as the spring seedlings were devoured by slugs as soon as they came up. Is straw mulch the problem?

  7. says

    If you don’t cool the soil ahead of time will that pose a problem? Do you just lay it over the soil? Sorry, new to this concept!! :)

    • says

      Hi, Jen. Hot, dry soil is not the right condition for germination generally speaking, so you want to make it more inviting for the seeds, in particular. I water well over a few days, and set up impromptu shade if it’s really hot and bright still — Reemay or “shade cloth” or even a sheet or burlap, maybe on wire hoops like I use in spring to protect things. You could lay burlap right over the moistened soil, yes. You’ll know if you’re helping the soil because it will be less baked/parched looking.

    • says

      Good idea, Sara. I am scanning the heavens for a good moment to sow…but so fare, too hot and dry still. Maybe a little window of relief coming soon…and I have my beds and my seeds ready!

  8. Dd says

    Very helpful tips, frequently my second plantings a never take. Looking at the link to Maine and wondering if u have ever been here to the common.ground fair? It’s amazing. Wondering what kind of straw mulch you r using. I stopped because it was 20.00 for a small bale. Wondering if u have found something more reasonable.

  9. says

    Thanks so much! I started my first garden a couple weeks ago as an experiment. I planted a few things on your list: beets, a lettuce mix, broccoli, summer squash, and spinach (among others). I’m so excited for my first harvest!

    • says

      Hi, Frances. I am in Columbia County across from Egremont. You can follow my instructions in the story as we are neighbors.

      You are welcome, Stephanie. Can’t wait to hear how it all grows! See you soon.

  10. Margaret says

    Thanks for inspiration, my fall seeds (Hudson Valley) are in as of yesterday. A bit worried because torrential downpour is expected tomorrow. Should I cover them?

    • says

      Hi, Margaret (what a nice name, tee hee). I often do so with Reemay or burlap in such circumstances, especially if they are small things that are barely pressed into the soil (I don’t worry about deeper-planted peas or beans, for instance). I am happy to get any rain including downpours about now — but so far all the storms keep floating on by. Damn.

  11. Hadley Priebe says

    Why isn’t there any information for the New England states? I live in Vermont and there isn’t anything specific for my area not even the area of New York thats closest to us. I love the information from your blog and have used it in my garden. I would have found the information very helpful since we are trying to grow as long as we can.

  12. says

    That Piracicaba looks beautiful! I’ll have to add it to our list for next year…thanks to a thunderstorm, we finally left the fields for the greenhouse yesterday to do some fall seeding ourselves. Lots of kale, collards, napa cabbage, pac choi and herbs! Now with today’s sun, the next round of beans is due to go in, and so outside I go~

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