As you look outside and watch the leaves begin to change, you may be gearing up to say your goodbyes to summer, and a thriving garden. However, for gardeners looking to stretch out their growing season, the beginnings of fall signifies a new opportunity for planting! Between now and the time we turn the clocks back in November is actually one of the best times of year to plant spring-blooming bulbs,cool-season annuals and vegetables, as well as trees, shrubs and perennials. Cooler temperatures and soaking fall rains will help your plants establish stronger root systems before their winter slumber. For this blog, we will focus on what to plant for the fall season when it comes to vegetables and annuals, so that you don’t have to waste your seeds or slow down your green thumb.
What is Fall Planting?
Fall is a wonderful time of cooler weather, beautiful colors, and seasonal foods. However, the biggest concern we hear is “Could it be too late to start my own garden?” Luckily, it’s not too late. There are a variety of vegetables that thrive during the fall season, making fall an underrated time to grow. Late September, early October seed planting will see a harvest as early as November 10th.That means home grown vegetables can be used for festive holiday dinners, on kabobs at football tailgates, or just to nourish your family and friends.
What Vegetables are Best for Fall Planting
In order to glean a successful fall harvest, you should be aware of what zone you reside in. We will go through this in more detail below. In milder zones, you’ll be able to grow most of the traditional overwintering crops such as root veggies (beets, turnips, potatoes), and brassicas (broccoli, spinach, cauliflower). In some tropical locations like Florida, winter is actually the only time you will have much success with these crops. As you head further north or into higher altitudes, cold frames and poly tents become your friend, helping you to nurture your plants until the days begin to elongate and the plants start to reward you with your first spring vegetables. As you get further north still, you still have a chance to tend to your fall garden with herbs like basil, oregano, chives, and the like by keeping them inside next to a south-facing window.
If you live in a colder zone, and can’t grow vegetalbes outdoors during the winter, you can still pre-seed your garden for early spring germination. Simply plant the seed of spring-growing vegetables once it’s too cold for them to germinate, then mulch and wait. Continually frozen soil over winter is better for the seeds than a cycle of freezing and defrosting. Quick tip: try and spread more seeds than you think you will need, because you can always transplant them or give away extras come spring.
Here are a few ideas for pre-seeded crops: arugula, basil, lettuce, radish and brassicas, cherry tomatoes and pumpkins. Also be sure to throw in some milkweed and wildflower seeds so that your pollinator friends have something to forage on as soon as the flowers start blooming!
Let’s Talk about Herbs for the Fall
Unless you live in a warmer hardiness zone, you’ll want to bring your herbs inside next to a sunny window for the winter. Don’t fret though, with enough light, woody perennials like thyme, sage and oregano should fair well throughout the winter. Don’t count out your annuals. Some herbs we usually consider to be annuals, can actually be grown perennially. Parsley, for instance is a useful and long-lasting cooking and salad herb that will last through the winter as long as you keep it indoors with adequate light and watering.
Fall Planting by Zone
In order to have springtime success with fall-planted vegetables, it’s important to know the growing zone in which you live. This will have a huge impact on what you can and cannot grow. The Hardiness Zones “are the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location. The map is based on the average annual low temperature, divided into 10-degree Fahrenheit zones” according to the USDA.
Hardiness Zones 8-11
These zones are the most optimal for fall gardening, as they represent areas with annual average minimum temperatures of 10⁰-45⁰ F. Areas with these zones include the coasts of Washington and Oregon down to the coast of California, across the coasts of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, as well as most of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Florida is entirely made up of Zones 8-11 as well as central to southern Georgia and South Carolina. Here is a list of vegetables perfect for fall planting in this zone:
- SUMMER SQUASH: The first harvest happens 40-55 days after planting, and they are known to be high in anti-oxidants.
- BROCCOLI: They can be harvested 75-90 days after planting.
- BELL PEPPERS: These babies take a little bit longer to mature, with the first harvest occurring in 80-100 days.
- POTATOES: Ready to harvest in 85-110 days.
- PUMPKIN: The face of fall, this veggie takes the longest to mature with the first harvest happening 90-120 days after planting.
Hardiness Zones 5-7
Zones 5-7 is quintessentially ‘Middle America,’ proving that temperate climates aren’t the only ones that produce fall garden success! Check out these fall vegetables that will grow quickly and be ready for a delicious harvest in time for your holiday festivities:
- SPINACH: Ready for harvest in 40-50 days.
- BEETS: Harvest occurs at 50-65 days.
- CARROTS: Harvest after 55-70 days
- CAULIFLOWER: Ready for harvest in 55-60 days.
Zones 5-7 thrive with some of the most nutritious vegetable options you can grow in the fall season. Start early so that you can enjoy your bounty in all your favorite recipes.
Fall Planting for Spring Harvest
To recap, Fall is a great time to plant many vegetables depending on your zone and weather conditions. Spring greens such as spinach, leaf lettuce, arugula, mustard greens, and mâche are great for fall planting because they require cooler soil for seed germination and they mature quickly. Fast-growing root veggies such as radishes, beets, and turnips also thrive in cool conditions and take less than two months to mature. And remember, don’t count out your herbs. With the right conditions, like bringing them indoors, making sure they have enough light, and watering regularly, you will have herbs through the winter and into the spring for all the soups, holiday dishes, and gatherings.
Try these fool proof tips for starting your Fall Garden with our vegetable seeds and let us know how it goes! Tag us in your gardening photos so that we can spread the positivity and help you celebrate!