my fall vegetable-garden plans, plus podcast

young beet greens
IORDERED SEEDS LAST WEEKEND. Yes, I am fully aware it’s not mid-winter or early spring; even with my nonstop mowing duties, I haven’t gone all dizzy yet. The vegetable garden is freeing up some prime real estate this month, and I plan to capitalize. From arugula to turnips, I worked my way alphabetically through the late-season possibilities for my Northern location, and found I was short a few key seeds. In print or podcast—your choice—are you ready for some fall vegetable-garden tuneup possibilities?

Prefer the Podcast?

MY LATEST WEEKLY SHOW with NPR affiliate Robin Hood Radio, WHDD in Sharon, Connecticut, tackles the topic of replanting your vegetable garden for a harvest well into the fall. Stream it, or subscribe free on iTunes.

Possible Crops I Could Still Grow:*

Arugula, Asian greens (such as pak choi, mustard, mizuna, tatsoi), green beans (bush), beets, broccoli**, Brussels sprouts**, cabbage**, carrots, cauliflower**, celery or celeriac**, collards, chicories (including radicchio, endive, escarole), kale, kohlrabi**, leeks**, lettuce, onions (bunching), parsnips, peas, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, Swiss chard, turnips.

* Technically, I could also sow a short-season cucumber or summer squash right this minute, one rated about 48 days to maturity, but my harvest period might be short. With herbs, I’ll re-sow cilantro, and have some young basil and parsley plants ready to set out from June sowings.

**Denotes crops I would have to buy seedlings for; too late to start here from seed but plenty of time from transplants.

Soil Too Hot and Dry for Germination?

SOME SEEDS WON’T GERMINATE in baking soil, so a day or two before I sow things in high summer, I moisten and shade the bed-to-be. Cultivate at least lightly to prepare the seedbed, then water well and erect knitted shade fabric on hoops (over the area, or just lay it on the ground).  With heat-sensitive crops like salad things and spinach, I leave the shade cloth up as the plants develop.

But When Exactly to Sow What?

IT DOESN’T ALL GO IN AT ONCE—each crop has its timing, though I’m in a hurry here on the green beans, for instance, which I like to have in by mid-July.  Some things still can have multiple repeat sowings, such as arugula and lettuce and other salad things, so I’ll sow a short row now, and every two weeks into early September. To calculate the right timing for your garden, there are many handy reference charts online from the cooperative extensions services and other agricultural groups in various regions, such as:

Search your state or county extension website for “fall vegetable garden” or even “winter vegetable garden” in the hottest areas where planting starts up again even later. Johnny’s Selected Seed also offers a calculator you can download to determine your planting times (link to the pdf is on this page on their site).

  • I’ve written before in more detail how I calculate what to sow when and where when and where. And a final tip: If you’re buying any seed as I just did, choose varieties geared to this season of the year for best results, often meaning faster to harvest or displaying more tolerance to changing conditions at the harvest side of the equation.


  1. Ellie Burn says:

    Have you heard of The Bucket Garden? I have found many positive things, not to mention success stories, about this system. You can grow all kinds of vegetables with this system in any climate year-round. My absolute favorite thing is the fact that it is low cost and low watering. The Garden Master, a man with years of experience came up with a way that any gardener can be successful without the stress and high cost most associated with gardening.

  2. Kristi says:

    The hot dry weather has zapped my garden enthusiasm, your post brought some of it back. We’ll be digging potatoes and harvesting garlic soon. Lots of square footage to devote to fall crops.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Good morning, I have been thinking about replanting also, but I am having a terrible time with sow bugs, earwigs eating my best efforts. Do you have any suggestions for organic deterents?

  4. Patti says:

    I am interested in starting a summer/fall garden as we just cleared some space in the garden. Thank you so much for the idea. What do you suggest for a shade cloth?

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Patti. If you have hoops or some other kind of support, you could use knitted shade cloth, or some other kind of shade cloth, which comes in various percentages of shade (e.g., 30 percent shade, 50 percent shade….). The hard thing is finding the good knitted product (which does not unravel if you cut the edges) in small lengths (not farmer-size) so people also use netting like this, which works fine.

  5. Brook Penick says:

    Anything we can do to get rid of aphids? At least I think that’s what they are. We have large ones and small ones, the smaller ones being pale and the larger ones sort of gray, shield-shaped things. Hate ’em!! They have destroyed my zucchini and buttercup squash plants and seem to be moving on to the yellow squash! This is the first year I haven’t had a problem with squash borers and I’d sure hate to lose them to these things. Thanks for any suggestions!

  6. shira says:

    Thank you for the reminder Margaret, with the now empty space from the garlic, and bolted/need to be pulled lettuce – I’ve got to get organized!

  7. Allison says:

    My fall crop seeds just arrived today from Johnny’s in Maine: scallions, leeks, shallots, carrots, and da cheong chae (Asian green on sale I thought I’d try). But as it’s 100 degrees, literally, here this week in Philly, I love the shade cloth idea — I have summerweight cloth from Garden’s Alive (I think). I’m braced for a leek and carrot failure, but hopeful that I’ll learn something in the process!

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Allison. Water well and shade it for a couple of days. I have another sowing to do here (where it it also suddenly very hot like there) so I am shading/sprinkling and will so when the heat breaks Sunday again I think.

  8. Audrey says:

    Hi, Margaret….I just love your web site. So informative, so helpful. Thanks for all your hard work!
    I want to sow lettuce for a fall crop, instead of the shade cloth thing, do you see any reason why I couldn’t do this on my shaded screened in porch in pots? And when it gets cooler, just move them out onto the deck in the sun? I live in Eastern PA. Would now be the time to sow?

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Lindsey. I don’t do the tech on the podcast myself, the radio station does. Maybe start here, at the “on demand” page of their site, than click on my show name at the left (A Way to Garden…) and then you’ll see the RSS button for my show there.

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