By: Liz Baessler
Fall season vegetable planting is a great way to get more use out of a small plot of land and revitalize a flagging summer garden. Plants that grow in cold weather do well in the spring, but they can do even better in the fall. Carrots, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and broccoli are actually sweeter and milder when they mature in cooler temperatures. Keep reading for information on fall season vegetable planting.
Fall planting cool season crops only takes a little planning beforehand. To get plants that produce in cool weather, you’ll have to start them in late summer. Look up the average frost date for your area and count backward in time the days until maturity for your plant. (This will be printed on your seed packet. For the best yield, pick seed varieties with a quick time to maturity.)
Then go back an additional two weeks for the “Fall Factor.” This refers to the fact that days in fall are shorter and make for slower growing plants than high summer. Whatever date you come up with is roughly when you should plant your fall crop. At this time in the summer, most stores won’t still be selling seeds, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead and buy extra in the spring.
Plants that grow in cold weather can be split into two groups: hardy and semi-hardy.
Semi-hardy plants can survive a light frost, meaning temperatures around 30-32 F. (-1 to 0 C.), but will die if the weather drops much colder. These plants include:
Hardy plants can survive multiple frosts and weather down into the 20s. These are:
All of these will be killed off if temperatures drop below 20 F. (-6 C.), though mulched root vegetables can be harvested into winter even if their green tops have died, as long as the ground is not frozen.
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Read more about General Vegetable Garden Care
Brassicas, lettuce, and spinach all come from the Meditteranean region and surrounding areas, where winters are quite mild by Minnesota standards. They are biennial and winter annual crops, meaning that in their native habitat, they must go through a winter cooling period called vernalization, before they can complete their life cycles and produce flowers.
In Minnesota, our spring weather is a lot like winter in the Mediterranean. As such, growing cool-season crops is a bit of a dance to obtain the right conditions for our vegetables.
Deviations from these weather conditions can cause some of the following issues.
Bolting refers to premature flowering. It occurs at any point after a plant has shifted into its reproductive stage. After this shift, high heat will speed up flowering.
Once a plant flowers, the heads are no longer marketable, and the taste of the foliage often becomes bitter. This is especially true for spinach and lettuce, which both become extremely bitter after flowering.
Sometimes you’ll find large, beautiful green cabbages in your garden that just never form heads, or radishes that seem to be thriving, but when you pull them up the roots are tiny and have not formed a bulb.
This can happen when you plant a bit too late into the spring and your plants never experience enough cold weather to vernalize. (Not to be mistaken with plants intentionally planted around midsummer, which then experience their cool temperatures in the fall).
This failure to form a head can also be a result of too much nitrogen, which can cause similar issues in peppers, certain cucurbits and other vegetables.
Failure to form an enlarged root could also happen as a result of not enough space.
Bitterness is most problematic in spinach and lettuce and is caused by a variety of factors. Primarily, heat and water stress can cause plants to become bitter, as can age.
To get the most out of your vegetable garden, you need to do a little planning. Knowing when to start your seeds and transplant them outdoors will help to maximize your harvest. There are no hard rules for this, it is dependent on the climate for your particular area, as well as the weather at the time.
These charts were created as a guideline, a starting point if you will. You should adjust the planting dates relative to your particular area, and the specific variety of vegetables going into your garden. The exact values may be slightly off (
2 weeks) for your particular zone. See the chart (below) to view the average dates of first and last freeze (low temperature reaches 32 degrees Fahrenheit) for each zone. If you don’t know what zone you live in, you can check the zone below, or you can find more specific information on the following website from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). The reports from the NCDC provide summarized data for many cities across your state, and will provide data much more specific to your particular area.To get the most out of your vegetable garden, you need to do a little planning. Knowing when to start your seeds and transplant them outdoors will help to maximize your harvest. There are no hard rules for this, it is dependent on the climate for your particular area, as well as the weather at the time.
|Zone||First Freeze Free Date||Last Freeze Free Date|
|2||July 30||August 15|
|3||July 15||September 1|
|4||June 15||September 15|
|5||May 30||October 1|
|6||May 15||October 15|
|7||April 15||October 30|
|8||March 15||November 15|
|9||February 1||November 30|
The Vegetable Garden Planting Calendar below will help you plan if and when your seeds should be started indoors, when to start or transplant your seeds/seedlings to the outdoors, and roughly when to expect to harvest your seeds. Each vegetable has a variety of types, each one with a slightly different growing season, and length. In general, the information listed on your seed packets will be more accurate and should be followed if there is any discrepancy. The chart below is intended to assist in scheduling garden events, as well as selecting complimentary garden vegetables for growing in your garden. For example, once the onions are harvested in the late summer, a quick-growing cool-weather crop such as lettuce, spinach, or beets could easily be grown where the onions once were. This allows an additional set of vegetables to be grown from the same garden plot.
By Joe Lamp'l on September 2, 2016
Knowing what to plant in a fall vegetable garden will open your eyes to a whole new world and extend your gardening season for many weeks or longer.
Cool-season seedlings are readily available at your local nursery when the time is right to plant your fall vegetable garden
While summer is typically considered the season for the classic vegetable garden, the cooler temperatures of fall find far fewer pest and disease populations to challenge plants (and gardeners). In addition, many edible varieties that would never grow happily in warmer times thrive in cooler and even cold weather of the fall vegetable garden.
If heat, humidity, gnats and bugs, along with constant watering and weeding are just not your thing, then fall gardening should be pure pleasure to those who are not fans of those ubiquitous conditions of summer gardening.
Most cool season crops will do fine even through frost and some freezing temperatures. But depending on what you grow and where you live, some level of protection may be necessary when temperatures drop below certain levels.
While all of the following plants can also be grown in late-winter or early-spring, the information below was written to specifically address planting options for late-summer to early-fall of the most popular cool-season edibles .
Arugula: Grow arugula like lettuce. Seeds germinate in about 5-7 days, even in cold soil. This leafy green vegetable has a spicy kick that works great mixed in salads. The dark green leaves and interesting leaf margins add a nice ornamental appeal to your garden as well.
Beets: For a fall harvest, plant beets 10-12 weeks before first frost. Or look for seedlings already started for help with timing. Seeds germinate in about 5-days. Beets taste best if you harvest them before they get too large (2″-2.5″ is ideal).
Broccoli: Late summer or early September direct seeding is best for timing. Sowing early will allow plenty of time for broccoli to head up. Or go with transplants when available. If you don’t want them all ready at once, consider staggering your sowing times over a few weeks. Cut main head from the plant when crown is still rather tight. Leave remaining plant in the ground and you may get additional smaller side heads later. The sweetest broccoli you will ever eat comes from your own garden when kissed by frost.
Brussels sprouts: This is likely the hardiest plant in your edible garden. Seeds germinate best when soil temperatures are still warm (75-80 degrees) so direct sow seeds now as these plants are not fast growers. You can also buy seedlings if you’re getting a later start. Its taste is all the better when several frosts have visited your plants. Another great plant for adding vertical interest to a garden (so be sure to stake these plants).
Cabbage: Direct seed in late summer or early fall. Seeds germinate in about 6 days. The smaller the heading size, the faster till harvest. A plant that thrives in cool but not cold temperatures, there are many varieties available. Grow your own and experience the pleasure of what fresh sweet cabbage really tastes like. You don’t know until you experience the dramatic difference for yourself.
Carrots: Root crops are classic for cool season growing. Carrots seeds germinate in about 7 days but grow slowly. In fall, sow seeds no later than 10 weeks before the first frost for a fall harvest. The seeds are tiny. Sow as evenly as possible but expect to come back after germination to thin out crowed sprouts for proper spacing. The ferny tops are a delicate look that enhances the design of any winter garden.
Cauliflower: Similar to broccoli and cabbage but a bit more challenging.Look for young seedlings and set transplants into the garden in late summer or early fall. Mature heads are sensitive to frost so for fall crops sowing after mid-August may not allow ample time for full maturity depending on where you live. It’s well worth dedicating a bit of space to this for the chance of experiencing just how good it can be from your own garden. Even non-cauliflower lovers enjoy it fresh from the garden.
Chinese Cabbage: Asian cousins of our domestic cabbage, direct sow seeds into the garden about eight-weeks before the first frost. You can usually find seedlings at the garden center as well. Common varieties found include open forms Joi choi, Pak choi, and Bok choi. All are easy to grow and especially well-suited in stir fry dishes.
Garlic: Super easy to grow, sow cloves directly into the soil about 2-inches deep in mid-fall and enjoy the harvest next summer. If you like garlic, growing the varieties you love is always a plus and couldn’t be easier.
Kale, Collards and Mustard: Super foods that are winter hardy. A few plants will fill a garden bed quickly. Sow seeds in late summer or early fall. Or transplants when available. Also ornamental, these plants are great to cook up on a cold night or toss in a smoothie, especially kale.
Kohlrabi: Perhaps the strangest looking plant you’ll ever grow in your edible garden. Kohlrabi is fast-growing and a cousin of cabbage and broccoli. This is a great plant to direct sow in fall up to one month before the first frost. Harvest as needed. It’s winter hardy and will store in-ground until you’re ready to harvest. For extra protection from cold snaps, cover with a layer of straw.
Lettuce: Super easy to grow, sow seeds directly into beds or containers starting about 8 weeks before the first average frost date. Lightly cover with soil. Seeds germinate in about a week. For a faster start, use transplants. With so many varietal options, the ornamental qualities are superb as well. To extend the season, sow a new crop of lettuce seeds or transplants about every two-weeks for a succession of fresh lettuce all through the season.
Onions: Onions grow happily through winter, forming bulbs next spring for a summer harvest. Although not difficult to grow, there’s more to know about selecting the right kind of onions for your growing area (short-day or long-day), as well as seeds or sets. Do your homework before you make your purchase to ensure you are getting the most appropriate selections for your area.
Peas: Sow seeds in late summer to early fall. Seeds germinate in about 10-14 day (longer when soil temperatures are cooler). Peas are great for adding vertical interest. Just give them something to climb on. Shorter varieties are also available. Sugar snaps and snow peas are cool season varieties and like candy in the garden. Every cool-season garden should include peas.
Radishes: The fastest growing edible plant in your garden, they can be ready to harvest in less than 30 days from seed. Radishes thrive in the cool soil of fall. Keep in mind there are over 200 varieties. So if all you know are the small hot ones, give radishes another look for a fast-growing, tasty, storable crop that’s super easy to grow.
Spinach: Sow seeds in early fall. Seeds germinate in 3 -5 days and plants grow well through fall. Harvest from the outside to allow plants to keep growing from the center. Although winter hardy, cover with a light layer of straw for extra winter protection and enjoy harvesting into late next spring. What could be better than harvesting some fresh sweet leaves of spinach for a salad or side dish?
Swiss Chard: Perhaps the most beautiful and toughest plant for year-round interest. Sow seeds about 10 weeks before first expected frost. Or add transplants when available in spring or fall. Fairly cold tolerant. Even if foliage dies back in winter, new leaves commonly emerge in spring from the base. This is one tough and beautiful plant. Does well for an an edible ornamental element in beds or containers. Lots of varieties and great in stir-fry too.
Joe Lamp'l is the Host and Executive Producer of the award winning PBS television series Growing A Greener World. Off camera, Joe dedicates his time to promoting sustainability through his popular books, blog, podcast series, and nationally syndicated newspaper columns. Follow Joe on Twitter
Many gardeners are unsure of what to grow and – more importantly – when to grow it. While the spring is when garden centers are full of seeds and seedlings fresh from the greenhouse, it’s not the only season of the year for planting.
Although not every zone allows year-round gardening, most allow at least three seasons’ worth and some allow part of a fourth. To take advantage of this, you’ll need to spread out your planting of some crops (planting new seeds every couple of weeks), while other crops you will plant once in the spring and then replant again in mid-season.
Let’s take a look at each season and what you can plant. Be aware that the dates below are for planting in Zone 6 in the Midwestern U.S., so you’ll need to adjust for your own gardening zone. You can find your gardening zone by ZIP code at the National Gardening Association web site.
This time of year the weather is warming and things are beginning to look like spring. Many cold-tolerant vegetables can be planted in March, including cabbage, broccoli, endive, cauliflower, head lettuce, potatoes, radishes, onions, peas, spinach, turnips and beets.
In April, more can be planted like collard, chard, carrots, leaf lettuce, salsify, and onion sets. Some of the things planted in mid-March may also be ready for harvest, such as lettuces and radishes, which are fast-growing.
In May, things really heat up and spring is definitely on. This month, most traditional gardening begins and things like snap and lima beans, cucumbers, eggplants, melons, peppers, okra, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, summer and winter squash, and tomatoes are ready to go in. Some of the things planted in March and April will now be ready for harvest, such as leaf lettuce, collard, lettuce heads, green onions, peas, and spinach.
With summer comes the mid-season gardener’s nightmare: bugs and pests. Still, planting and harvesting continues. In June, harvest is the name of the game with early crops like snap beans, cabbage, collards, chard, carrots, broccoli, endives, cauliflower, lettuce (head/leaf, depending on how you staggered them), green onions, peas, late spinach, turnips, and beets all being ready. If you have the space, keep sowing more cucumbers, snap beans and sweet corn to lengthen your harvest.
In July, the harvest continues, but more planting for fall crops is in order. Cabbages, carrots, turnips, cauliflower and broccoli are all finishing up production. Potatoes, snap beans, cucumbers, and summer squash are in full swing. Melons, peppers, sweet corn and tomatoes start to come in. Replant cabbage, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower for fall harvest.
For August, you’re mostly harvesting with just a few things being planted. Beans and cucumbers usually appear in abundance this month. Eggplants may start to come in and watermelons are likely ripening now as well. Peppers, okra, onions, sweet corn, summer squash, and tomatoes are also overwhelming your bushel baskets this month. You can replant radishes, lettuce, kale, spinach, turnips and beets.
As the leaves begin to turn and the weather gets less predictable, fall is in. The traditional harvest time, everything that didn’t finish in August will be finishing in September and October. You’ll be continuing to harvest lima beans, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, sweet corn, squash and tomatoes. Winter squash and pumpkins will come in as well. If you planted a second round of crops for fall harvest, you’ll also be enjoying cabbages, carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, radishes, spinach and turnips.
A few winter veggies can be planted this month, depending on your local climate. Leaf lettuce, spinach, and turnips can be tried.
Anything that didn’t finish in October will finish now. A few of the early varieties planted in October may be ready at the end of the November or beginning of December, especially if the frost is late coming. Baby spinach is a favorite this time of year and many potatoes and beets that were left in the ground can now be dug up.
Did we miss anything? Leave a comment and let us know!
Does this guide work for the California deserts?
Succession planting is simply the practice of spacing out your planting dates. Rather than planting all of your broccoli on April 1, with succession planting you might transplant some of it on March 23, some on April 1, some on April 8, and so on.
Succession planting is great for a few reasons:
Not all radishes are the same. Some have been intentionally selected for cold tolerance, whereas others have been intentionally selected for heat tolerance or resistance to bolting. The same is true with all vegetables.
Make sure you’re selecting varieties that meet your goals. Most cool-season crops will be marketed according to the best season for planting. Some will explicitly be labeled as spring, fall, or heat tolerant (i.e. summer) varieties. Seed catalogs will provide a chart showing the best varieties for different times of the year.
For later spring plantings, choose a heat-tolerant variety to avoid bolting.
Some gardeners like to direct seed their cool-season crops. This is absolutely acceptable, and a great option for folks who lack space indoors for starting seeds.
But for spring crops, transplanting can help provide a few weeks of optimal growing temperatures indoors. This means your plants are likely to mature a bit earlier before the really warm summer weather comes.
There are also some side benefits. For example, transplanted Brassicas are better able to withstand feeding damage from early spring insect pests like flea beetles and cabbage maggots than direct-seeded crops.
For the eager gardeners who love to get out in the garden as soon as possible, season extension tools like row cover and low tunnels can help to create a warmer growing environment for early planted vegetables.
Bolting and bitterness can both result from excess heat. A couple of strategies to reduce heat stress as summer begins include watering regularly to keep the soil moist and using organic mulches like straw, which keep the soil cool.
Author: Natalie Hoidal, Extension educator, local foods and vegetable production
After harvesting early-maturing vegetables such as salad greens, radishes, peas and spinach, gardeners can plant other crops in midsummer for fall harvest. You can successfully grow some root crops, greens and other vegetables from late June, July or August plantings.
It is important to know the average first frost date in your area. This will help you calculate when to plant these late vegetables so they will mature before cold weather damage. The Midwestern Regional Climate Center has produced an up-to-date interactive map of first fall and last spring freeze dates.
Some vegetables will tolerate some frost and keep growing even when temperatures are in the low forties. Others cannot tolerate frost and stop growing in cool weather. Bush snap beans mature in 45 to 65 days, but even a light frost (temperatures between 30° and 32°) will kill the plants. Kale takes just as long to mature, but the plants continue to grow when temperatures are cool, and can survive cold down to about 20°F.
Cool-season vegetables including kale and others in the cabbage family may be the best choice for mid-summer sowing. An earlier-than-expected frost will not kill them before they are ready to eat. Many of the cold-tolerant vegetables actually have better quality when grown in cool weather.
|Crop||Days to maturity||Cold hardiness|
|Basil||30-60||Killed by frost|
|Beets||50-60||Survives high 20s|
|Bush Beans||45-65||Killed by frost|
|Broccoli||50-70||Survives light frost|
|Brussels sprouts||90-100||The hardiest - down to 20°|
|Cabbage||50-90||The hardiest - down to 20°|
|Cauliflower||60-80||Survives light frost|
|Cilantro||60-70||Survives light frost|
|Collard greens||40-65||The hardiest - down to 20°|
|Garlic||Harvest the following July||Winters over in ground|
|Green onion||60-70||Survives high 20s|
|Kale||40-65||The hardiest - down to 20°|
|Kohlrabi||50-60||Survives light frost|
|Leaf lettuce||40-60||Survives light frost|
|Mustard greens||30-40||Survives light frost|
|Peas||70-80 (longer than if planted in spring)||Survives high 20s|
|Radishes||30-60||Dig until soil freezes|
|Spinach||35-45||Survives light frost may overwinter|
|Swiss chard||40-60||Survives light frost|
|Turnips||50-60||Survives light frost|
You can harvest leafy vegetables, such as Swiss chard, kale and mustard greens before the leaves reach full size. These small leaves are tenderer and tastier than mature ones. Plant these crops in succession every few weeks over the course of the spring and summer to provide a steady supply of young leaves.
Lettuce may bolt and taste bitter when grown in the heat of summer. Enjoy it in spring or wait until temperatures cool to plant a late crop. Shade from taller plants may help improve the quality of summer-grown lettuce, as will selecting varieties suited for warm weather.
Basil and cilantro are fast-growing herbs that are ready for harvest about a month after sowing the seed. Garlic planted in September produces the biggest bulbs the following July. After harvesting a late-maturing crop, you can plant garlic in that space.
Before sowing these second crops, turn over the soil and mix in some balanced fertilizer to replace what earlier plants have used up. Leftover debris like stems or roots from the first planting can cause problems in seed germination if you do not remove them or allow them to break down. Wait one to two weeks before seeding the second crop, or be sure to remove this material as completely as possible.
If it is too late to plant a second crop of vegetables, you may want to plant "green manure" to keep the area weed-free, prevent soil erosion and add organic matter to the soil.