Your Guide to Fall Planting!

Forget the years of single harvests! Many vegetables are well-adapted to planting in the summer for fall harvest. As you pick your carrots, beets, and salad greens, you can be replacing those veggies with fresh seeds that will extend your gardening season so you can continue to harvest fresh produce after earlier crops have finished. The fall harvest can be extended even further by providing protection from early frosts or by planting in cold frames or hotbeds. Fall and winter gardening, although an old practice, is an excellent solution for keeping the fertility of your garden's soil at its peak levels. At the same time, it yields crops of delicious vegetables throughout the fall and winter that cost a fraction of produce purchased in the supermarket.

Many cool-season vegetable produce their best flavor and quality when they mature during cool weather. Vegetables such as lettuce and spinach tend to bolt or develop bitter flavor when they mature during hot summer weather. Here's a quick reference guide:

Late-maturing crops Approximate maturity 90 days. Plant by mid July for fall harvest, later for spring harvest.


  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Parsnip
  • Rutabaga
  • Globe Onions


  • Brussells Sprouts
  • Cabbages
  • Cauliflower
  • Fava Bean 
Mid-season crops - Approximate maturity 60 days. Plant by mid August. Use any of the dates from above as well as the Best Dates below.


  • Early Carrots
  • Leek
  • Turnip
  • Kohlrabi


  • Early Cabbages
  • Winter Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Perennial Flowers
  • Perennial Herbs
  • Swiss Chard 
Early maturing crops - Approximate maturity 30 days. Plant by mid September. Use the dates from the previous page as well as the Best Dates below. The latest dates are for warmer climates, later frosts, or protected plantings.


  • Chives
  • Bunching Onions
  • Radishes


  • Broccoli
  • Cover Crops
  • Leaf Lettuces
  • Mustard
  • Spinach
  • Lawn seed
Growing a productive fall vegetable garden requires thoughtful planning and good cultural practices. July and August are the main planting times for the fall garden. Count backwards from the average first-frost date in your area to determine the best time to plant.

Preparing the Site
Before preparing the soil for a fall garden, you must decide what to do with the remains of the spring garden. In most cases, the decision is not difficult because the cool-season crops have already matured and the warm-season vegetables are beginning to look ragged. Remove the previous crop residue and any weed growth. 

Planting the Fall Garden
Direct seeding (planting seeds rather than using transplants) for crops such as broccoli, cabbage, and collards is often used in the fall. However, the success of this planting method depends on having adequate moisture available to keep the young seedlings actively growing after germination. Seeds should be planted deeper in the fall because the moisture level is lower in the soil and the surface temperature is higher. In many cases, the planting depth may be 1 1/2 to 2 times as deep as for spring planting of the same crop.

Watering/Fertilizing Most vegetables require 1 inch of water per week. It's best to make a single watering that penetrates deeply rather than frequent shallow applications. Young seedlings and germinating seeds may need more frequent, light waterings. Do not allow seedlings to dry out excessively. New transplants may also benefit from frequent light waterings until they develop new roots.
Many fall-maturing vegetables benefit from sidedressing with nitrogen just as do spring maturing vegetables. Most leafy vegetables will benefit from an application of nitrogen three and six weeks after planting.

Insects and Diseases
It is not uncommon for insects and diseases to be more abundant in the fall. Most problems from insects and diseases result from a buildup in their populations during the spring and summer. There is hope of keeping these pests at tolerable levels, however, if a few strategies are followed. Strive to keep fall vegetables healthy and actively growing; healthy plants are less susceptible to insects and diseases. Check the plants frequently for insect and disease damage. When sufficient damage is detected, use an approved pesticide. You may decide not to grow vegetables, such as squash, corn, and cucumbers, that are specially insect and disease prone during late summer and fall.

Frost Protection
You can extend the season of tender vegetables by protecting them through the first early frost. Cover growing beds or rows with burlap or a floating row cover supported by stakes or wire to keep the material from directly touching the plants. Individual plants can be protected by using milk jugs, paper caps, or water-holding walls.

Most of the semi-hardy and hardy vegetables will require little or no frost protection. Semi-hardy vegetables should be harvested before a heavy freeze. Root crops such as carrots and radishes should be harvested or mulched heavily before a hard freeze. The harvest of mulched root crops can often be extended will into the winter. During mild winters, harvest may continue till spring.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.