Q&A: Fall Vegetable Garden

I’ve heard fall is a good time to grow certain kinds of vegetables. Which ones? When should I plant them? 
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I’ve heard fall is a good time to grow certain kinds of vegetables. Which ones? When should I plant them?

Answer: Many cool-season vegetables do very well when grown as fall crops. These include leafy vegetables such as lettuce, kale, mustard, turnips and spinach. Broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts and cauliflower also offer high quality when planted for a fall harvest.

To determine when to plant seeds, pay attention to the “days to harvest” or “days to maturity” number on the seed packet. You need to start the seeds early enough to harvest the vegetables before everything freezes over (if that is a factor in your climate). However, keep in mind that the above vegetables are not sensitive to frost. That is, they can take some frosty mornings and they relish cool fall nights. Also, the first frost is often followed by “Indian summer” in many areas, which provides great weather for growing vegetables.

Getting seeds to sprout and thrive can be challenging in the heat of the summer. Try planting the seeds a little deeper than normal, which will improve the availability of moisture and subject them to a cooler soil temperature. Make sure to water at the time of planting and regularly thereafter. If you’re working with transplants instead of seeds, plant them in the late afternoon or early evening and water them well to reduce shock. You can also set up some shade cloth or other shading mechanism until seedlings or transplants get established and the weather starts to cool.

If frost is predicted and it makes you nervous for your plants, put some sort of protective covering over them, such as a row cover or cloche, or even an old bed sheet. You can further hedge your bets by growing varieties that are marketed as quick to mature and cold hardy.

Read more about growing vegetables

See our Veggie Gardening CD