Your Autumn Garden is Waiting for You!
Wondering what to plant in the fall garden? Depending on where you live, you can plant a vegetable garden in the late summer and harvest throughout the fall and winter, sometimes into spring.
Cool-Season Vegetables for the Fall Garden
What are cool-season vegetables? Cool-season veggies grow best when daytime temperatures average less than 70°F. Their seeds will germinate with lower soil temperatures, even as low as 40°F. Some even taste better after heavy frosts.
But first, some things you need to know:
- What planting zone are you in?
- When is your expected first frost going to be?
Don’t worry, keep reading to learn how to find these out. What are you waiting for? Find out what to plant in the fall garden in your area.
Where are you located?
Of course, what vegetables you plant will depend on where you live, and what hardiness zone your plants belong to.
The USDA Hardiness Zone map divides North America into 11 separate planting zones, each based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree Fahrenheit zones.
You can look at the hardiness map to determine what zone you’re in. This will help determine which plants are most likely to thrive at your location.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac
The Old Farmer’s Almanac provides interesting information about a lot of topics, including recipes, weather forecasts, full moon dates and times, gardening tips, home remedies, astrology, sunrise and sunset times, and much more!
Founded in 1792, the Almanac even predicts trends in fashion, food, home, technology, and living for the next year.
People have used it to make “informed decisions” about future plans that depend on the weather.
When is your expected first frost?
The Old Farmer’s Almanac has a section that lists expected first and last frosts, searchable by zip code. Frost dates are the day that there is a 50% chance there will be a frost, and a 50% chance that there is no frost.
It is said that you want to adjust these dates by two weeks. Meaning you add two weeks earlier than the first frost in the fall or winter and two weeks after the last frost in the spring.
Check out your location’s first and last frost dates here. The data might not be absolutely correct, but it will give you an idea of when to plant your fall vegetable garden. Take the frost date, and you know about when to get those seeds in the ground.
For example, we live in Zone 7b here in Enumclaw. The average annual minimum winter temperature here is 5°F to 10°F.
Using our zip code, the expected first frost is October 31. I would need to plant radishes no later than October 10 if they have 21 to 30 days to maturity.
What does your seed packet say?
Read the seed packets. They will tell you everything you need to know about the vegetables you want to plant. Including information like how long it will take for the plants to mature and be ready for harvesting.
The seed packets will make note of the planting zone too. You’ll know if the plant will thrive in your area by matching the plant’s zone with your plant hardiness zone.
When to plant your seeds?
Then work backward from the expected first frost date to determine your last planting date. You want to get the seeds into the ground in late summer for fall and winter harvest. This will give them a chance to germinate and develop before the winter comes.
If you are too late to plant seeds, don’t worry! You can get some starter plants from your local nursery and transplant them into your garden in early fall.
Then sit back and watch your garden grow in the beautiful autumn season. You’re still able to harvest your veggies before the first frost.
So, what do you want to plant in the fall garden?
You’ll be making your choices from the list of cool-season vegetables. There are two groups of cool-season veggies: those that are not affected by frost, and those that are.
Cool-season veggies that are not affected by frost:
Arugula is also called Rocket, rucola, roquette, and colewort. For fall and winter, sow seeds August – September. You can harvest all winter and spring.
Arugula matures in 40 days. It is delicious as a salad served with shaved Parmesan cheese and a simple dressing made with olive oil and lemon juice.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, shown to contain cancer-fighting compounds.
Sow seeds June – July for harvest in the fall and early winter. Broccoli matures in 50 to 72 days.
Brussels sprouts look like tiny cabbages and are the buds that grow on the stalk. Sow seeds June – July, harvest late winter and early spring.
Brussels sprouts mature in 45 days to several months, depending on conditions.
Cabbage only likes cool temperatures. Start seeds June – July, transplant outside in late summer for harvest late fall and winter.
Cabbage matures in 45 days to 70 days for most green head cabbage varieties, depending on conditions.
Collards are tolerant in temperatures down to 0°F. The flavor even improves with a touch of frost, which sweetens the greens.
Plant 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost. sow June – August, and you harvest all winter and spring.
Fava Beans can withstand temperatures as cold as 15°F. Use them as a multipurpose plant for the vegetable garden.
Grow for green manure, or let them mature to harvest the leaves, flowers, and pods for feasting on through the winter and spring.
Plant 3 to 6 weeks before the first frost. Sow seeds September – October, harvest late winter to spring.
Fall is the perfect time to plant garlic, so sow the cloves directly into the soil from October through January.
Harvest next summer when the tops begin to dry.
They say that if you miss the fall planting, wait until next year to plant garlic!
Kale is cold-tolerant down to 0°F. Plant 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost.
Sow kale June – July, harvest all winter and spring. It matures in 50 to 72 days. Kale can also be used as an ornamental plant in your garden all winter.
Kohlrabi is a member of the Brassica oleracea family which includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts.
It’s sometimes referred to as German turnip. Sow July – August, harvest all winter and spring.
Leeks are a member of the onion family but have a sweeter flavor. They’re grown from seed and then transplanted to the garden.
Start the seeds 2 to 3 months before you want to plant them outside. The number of days to maturity 75 to 125 days.
Peas are one of the first crops to plant in the springtime. They don’t mind frost and are a crop you can try to grow for an autumn and winter harvest.
The fall harvest might not be as productive as the spring, but they will be delicious! Maturity is 100 to 120 days.
Radishes grow faster than any other vegetable in your garden! Direct sow seeds in late summer about 4 to 6 weeks before the first frost.
They mature in 21 to 30 days. Pick them right around maturity, as they don’t last long once they reach it.
Spinach loves cooler weather and can withstand temperatures down to 0°F. The leaves get sweeter as the weather gets colder.
Use a row cover or cold frame to protect the leaves from any damage. Sow seeds in July – August, harvest through fall and early winter. Days to maturity are 40 to 60 days.
Parsnip, turnips, and rutabagas are all cool-season veggies. Sow seeds July – August and harvest all winter and spring
They can remain in the ground for up to 2 months after maturity and will taste better after a frost. Plan on 30 to 60 days to maturity.
Cool-season Veggies that can be affected by frost:
Beets are the perfect veggie to grow year-round. They have a long harvest, can be stored for a long time, and have a high yield in a very small space. Use the leaves for salad or a steamed side dish.
The roots can be eaten at any size and can stay in the ground until heavy frost.
Sow seeds in July, harvest all winter. Maturity in 50 to 60 days.
Carrots are affected by frost. The carrot tops can withstand temperatures down to 15°F., but the roots can tolerate even colder temperatures. The cold stimulates carrots to produce more sugars.
Plant 8 to 10 weeks before the first frost. Sow September, harvest all winter and spring. Carrots mature in 55 to 110 days.
Head cauliflower really likes cooler weather to grow. Sow in early summer to have a harvest all fall.
Cauliflower takes 45 days to several months to mature and be ready for harvest.
This is a delicious veggie and is so different when you grow your own from what you can get at the store.
Celery needs a long, cool growing season. Celery matures in 90 to 135 days.
There are two types of lettuces: head and leaf varieties, and both are fast and easy to grow.
Sow August – September, harvest in the fall and winter. Lettuce heads mature in 50 to 75 days, leaf lettuce in 21 to 30 days.
Swiss Chard likes cool temperatures for growing.
Plant transplants in the fall, harvest the outer leaves at maturity, and the plant will continue to grow. There are 60 days to maturity.
You can easily extend your growing season into the fall and winter by planting cool-season vegetables and edible flowers.
Wondering what to plant in the fall garden? The plants you choose will be determined by your hardiness zone and first expected frost date.
Some cool-season vegetables are not affected by frost and can be harvested throughout the winter. Fresh veggies!
What did you plant in your fall garden? Respond below and let us know.
Also, here is a post about what veggies can grow in containers.