Gardening isn't just for summer--with these fabulous crops for your fall vegetable garden, you can have homegrown produce from your own backyard for longer than you thought!
If you live in a place with a short gardening season (like I do), gardening is a bit of a challenge. And if you're a newbie like me, that brings other challenges, but take heart!
In case you didn't know, summer isn't the only time for gardening. Fall works too! (And believe it or not, winter can work as well - so hold onto your hats for that post!)
Whether you're wanting to extend a short growing season, or you just can't get enough of gardening, planting a fall garden is the way to go. And with this long list of fall garden vegetables, you'll soon see that there is a lot to choose from.
Our Fall Garden
This year was the first year I tried planting a fall vegetable garden. Actually, it's really the first time I was heavily involved in our garden at all. I had chronic fatigue for 10 years, and thought I would stink at it, so I never tried.
This spring, however, with my fatigue finally gone, I felt up to the challenge, jumped right in, and planted a ton. Unfortunately, though we tried a basic variation of lasagna gardening, the garden didn't do so well (for various reasons).
I sort of felt like quitting, but I was determined. So a fall garden was a natural thing to try! It was a little daunting, but I'm really glad I did it.
Some of our plants are doing great, others not so much, but we got a few fun surprises and some more good experience under my Newbie Gardener Belt.
19 Crops for Your Fall Vegetable Garden
Whether you got into your gardening groove this summer or not, you can still enjoy a plentiful vegetable garden in the fall. Those fresh, delicious veggies aren't done yet!
Here are the ins and outs for how to grow a robust vegetable garden in the fall. If you need additional information about growing any of these vegetables, Mother Earth News is a great resource!
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Beans of all types grow quickly and are ideal for planting at intervals throughout the growing season. They can produce until frost.
- When & How to Plant: Sow outdoors directly in the soil in late summer to early fall for a fall harvest.
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: ~50-60 days
- When & How to Harvest: Bean pods are typically ready to pick when they are about 5 inches long. If you want to harvest for the inner beans, then wait until the beans are seen bulging in the pods.
- More Info: You'll want a trellis for pole beans, but that isn't needed for bush beans. Beans are a great vegetable to start seed saving with since the seeds are easy to isolate and save.
Related Post: Crispy Green Bean Chips
Beets make a great crop for your fall vegetable garden. They thrive in cooler temperatures and are easy to grow, making them perfect for beginners.
- When & How to Plant: Direct sow in late summer, about 8-10 weeks before first frost. Plant about 1 inch deep and 3-4 inches apart if harvesting roots (can be closer if only harvesting greens)
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: ~50-60 days
- When & How to Harvest: Harvest the leaves anytime for beet greens, but always leave at least 2 inner leaves so the roots will mature. Greens taste best when harvested at ~6 inches long, but you can harvest them later too. Harvest the root when it's 1-3 inches in diameter. Water a few days before harvesting for easy removal.
- More Info: In warmer climates especially, sow near taller plants to provide shade. Once you're done harvesting the taller vegetables in the cooler temperatures, the beets will thrive.
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Bok Choy and Tatsoi
Bok Choy (a.k.a. Pak Choi) is a delicious Chinese cabbage that's tender, smooth, crisp, with a slightly peppery flavor. It's a stir fry classic and makes a wonderful contribution to fall stews and soups. I planted Winter Choy this year--it's supposed to even grow in snow!
- When & How to Plant: Direct sow in full sun or partial shade beginning in mid to late summer, up until six to eight weeks before first expected frost.
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: 45-60 days
- When & How to Harvest: Bok choy is a cabbage that forms no head, so to harvest, cut a few leaves at a time or harvest the entire crop. For tatsoi, harvest baby greens as early as 3 weeks or slice the plants off about an inch above the ground to harvest the entire head.
- More Info: A cool-season crop, plan bok choy in late summer once earlier crops are done for the year. Bok choy is frost hardy, so it continues to grow and produce after cold weather has eliminated insects and pests, giving you a late-season fresh crop.
- Note: Rabbits and slugs love these plants. Ask me how I know. Make sure to put a natural deterrent around your plants.
- Cool Fact: You can regrow bok choy from scraps!
Broccoli doesn't grow well in hot weather, making it a perfect fall vegetable garden crop. It's easy to grow, but be sure to give it plenty of constant water, which it needs for robust growth.
- When & How to Plant: Sow direct in late summer or early fall, or plant transplants in early fall for a late fall crop.
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: ~100 days
- When & How to Harvest: Harvest the head when it's about 4-8 inches in diameter.
- More Info: Broccoli is sensitive to frost and freezing. If you expect an early cold spell, cover broccoli to protect the buds. Broccoli really loves nitrogen, so consider adding in a source like alfalfa meal, blood meal, or even urine!
Related Post: Crunchy Broccoli Jicama Salad
Brussels sprouts love cool weather and are often grown through the summer in cool climates. In warmer climates, however, Brussels sprouts can grow from the fall, through winter, and into early spring.
- When & How to Plant: Start seeds indoors and transplant, or purchase them as starts. Start seeds 12-14 weeks before the first frost.
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: 90-110 days
- When & How to Harvest: Harvest when the tiny heads are green, firm, and 1-2 inches in diameter. Remove sprouts by twisting them until they break free. Wait until after your first frost to start harvesting your Brussels Sprouts because frost improves their flavor.
- More Info: As you remove lower sprouts, also remove yellowing leaves; the plant continues to grow upward, producing more leaves and sprouts.
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Nutritious, and delicious cooked or raw, both red and green cabbage are among the most robust cool-season crops.
- When & How to Plant: Sow direct 6-8 weeks before the first frost. Cabbage prefers full sun.
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: ~82 days
- When & How to Harvest: Squeeze the head to make sure it's firm throughout. If the head presses in easily and feels loose, it needs more time to mature.
- More Info: Cabbage that matures in cool weather is deliciously sweet--light frosts make it even better! Like most vegetables, cabbage needs at least 6 hours of full sun each day and consistent water. Uneven watering might result in stunted growth or cracked heads.
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Carrots make a terrific beginner crop that's perfect for your fall vegetable garden--they thrive in many conditions.
- When & How to Plant: Direct sow 6-8 inches apart into the ground 8-10 weeks before the first frost. Carrot seeds are really really small and difficult to sow so definitely aim for 2 seeds per hole, but you might want to sow up to 8 to ensure germination.
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: ~60-80 days
- When & How to Harvest: The tops of the carrot roots will likely start popping out of the soil and will be about 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter. Moisten the ground for a few days before harvesting.
- More Info: Carrots are a great crop to grow in succession. Plant new plantings every 3 weeks to enjoy homegrown carrots all season long. Carrot tops are edible too! I hope to share a fun pesto recipe when it's finished!
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Cauliflower is a cool weather plant with optimal growing temperatures in the mid 60°sF.
- When & How to Plant: Sow direct 6-8 weeks before the first frost but after temperatures are consistently at or below the 70s.
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: ~70-90 days
- When & How to Harvest: Harvest cauliflower when heads are 6-8 inches in diameter but still compact and smooth and before the white heads turn yellow.
- More Info: Shade plants from heat, if necessary. Add mulch to conserve moisture. Cauliflower is temperamental and not tolerant of a freeze, so cover if you expect an early freeze.
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Garlic is a very hardy and easy plant to grow. The scapes make for a special treat!
- When & How to Plant: You can plant next year’s garlic harvest anytime in late fall when your soil is around 50 degrees F. The trick is to plant it before your ground freezes over. Aim to plant between 1-3 weeks before your first frost date through 2-3 weeks after your first frost.
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: ~21 days from the last time you cut the scapes.
- When & How to Harvest: Harvest when several of the lower leaves go brown, but five or six up top are still green. Loosen the soil alongside each bulb before pulling the bulbs out by the stems. Garlic stores best when cured with its leaves on and out of the sun in an area with good air circulation.
- More Info: You might be lucky to get some garlic during the fall months, but most likely you'll get your crop the following spring. Homegrown garlic is even thought to have more health benefits in the form of allicin!
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Green onions require very little space and effort. Faster growing than traditional onions, they're easy to grow as a beginner.
- When & How to Plant: Direct sow in late summer (at least 4 weeks before the first frost) and harvest through fall and early winter.
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: 20-30 days
- When & How to Harvest: Dig or pull when the tops reach between 6-8" tall and the bulbs have begun to swell. Green onions taste best when they are picked young and tender.
- More Info: Don't grow green onions in soil or containers where you've previously grown onions or garlic, since the soil can easily retain diseases for which green onions are particularly susceptible.
There are lots of greens that you can grow in the fall! Since they're pretty similar, I grouped most of them together in one section.
For the sake of this post, greens include spinach, radicchio, arugula, Swiss chard, collards, and mizuna.
Greens often grow best when planted in the cool of spring or fall, and they tend to be very easy to grow.
- When & How to Plant: Sow directly into the ground in late summer or early fall.
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: Most greens are ready to harvest in 50-60 days. Check the seed package for your specific variety.
- When & How to Harvest: Pick or cut leaves when they're small and tender, leaving a few so that the plant keeps producing. Start on the outside and move towards the middle.
- More Info: Greens are very low-maintenance and easy to grow compared to many vegetable plants--great for a beginner's fall vegetable garden!
Kale is exceptionally cold tolerant, growing long into the fall and winter months when most other crops are done producing.
- When & How to Plant: Direct sow in early fall for harvesting even into winter. Plant in full sun to partial shade about six to eight weeks before the first frost.
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: 25 - 55 days (depending on whether you want baby or fully mature leaves)
- When & How to Harvest: Harvest a fistful of leaves without picking the terminal bud (found at the top center of the plant) because that's how the plant keeps producing.
- More Info: Try Rainbow Kale for a slightly different taste and a lovely addition to your garden. These Kale Chips, in my opinion, taste better than store-bought.
Kohlrabi is a great vegetable for most fall gardens because they mature very quickly and are easy to grow.
- When & How to Plant: Direct sow about 90 days before the first frost.
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: 60-65 days
- When & How to Harvest: When the stem is 3 inches in diameter and the bulb is the size of a tennis ball.
- More Info: Did you know--the large part of the kohlrabi plant isn't a root--it's a swollen stem! The leaves and stems are edible too, making it a great "eat the whole plant" crop.
Leeks are easy to grow but have a long time to maturity. If you live in a cooler climate, you'll want to start leeks in the spring for a fall harvest.
- When & How to Plant: Plant sets two to four weeks before your average last frost date. Cover with just enough soil so their tips appear above the soil. Place sets in a shallow trough, 4-6 inches apart.
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: ~100-120 days
- When & How to Harvest: Harvest leeks when they're big enough to use.
- More Info: Leeks taste better if grown in cooler weather.
Lettuce loves cool weather; plant in late summer for an autumn harvest. You can also tuck lettuces into fall container gardens alongside pansies and other fall blooms.
- When & How to Plant: Sow direct 8 weeks before the first frost.
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: ~45-55 days
- When & How to Harvest: Harvest when full size, but just before maturity. The leaves taste best when they're young and tender. You can harvest as you go by picking outer leaves. Just make sure to leave at least 2 inner leaves for continual growth.
- More Info: You can plant from transplants but lettuce also grows easily from seed.
Parsnips keep growing when most other plants have already died off.
- When & How to Plant: Direct sow in summer.
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: ~16 weeks
- When & How to Harvest: Harvest before the ground freezes by loosening the soil around the roots with a fork before lifting them to avoid damaging the roots.
- More Info: Parsnip flavor improves after a frost. If you aren't able to harvest before the ground freezes, parsnips keep well in the garden all winter.
Peas grow well in cool weather, making them ideal for your fall vegetable garden. Choose a short season variety for an autumn harvest.
- When & How to Plant: Sow directly outside once temperatures have dropped the 70s or below.
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: ~3 weeks after flowers appear.
- When & How to Harvest: Shelling peas are ready when pods are fat and full. The best way to learn when to harvest these is to check a few pods. Find one that looks right and use that as a guide for future picking. Edible pods are ready when they are shiny and just beginning to swell.
- More Info: Vining beans need a trellis; bush varieties do not. Leafless and semi-leafless vines are less prone to disease. Bonus--you can eat pea leaves, and they taste like (you guessed it)--peas!
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Grow quick-growing spring varieties, slower-growing winter varieties that offer larger roots and greater flavor, or both! Since they grow so quickly, you can plant several crops from late summer through the fall.
- When & How to Plant: Plant late summer to early fall and stop about a month before the first frost. Sow near taller plants for shade during the summer--they'll thrive after you remove the taller plants.
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: 20-30 days for quick-growing varieties; 50-60 days for winter varieties.
- When & How to Harvest: Pull the whole plant to harvest--radishes are ready when the root is at least 1 inch wide.
- More Info: Radish seed pods are edible and taste great, so you can let some of your radishes go to seed for a new fun treat. Radish greens can be harvested too, but they tend to be prickly. Choose White Icicle, Shunkyo Semi-Long, Perfecto and Red Head varieties for less prickliness.
If you've never roasted turnips, you're seriously missing out. Turnips grow easily and well in the fall. They love cool weather, preferring temperatures around 60°F.
- When & How to Plant: Direct sow late summer to early fall.
- How Long Until Ready to Harvest: 30-60 days
- When & How to Harvest: Roots are ready to harvest when they start popping up above the soil line. The roots of smaller turnips are more tender than larger ones.
- More Info: Even if you don't get large roots, radish greens make a wonderful treat and small turnips taste great too!
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Now that you’ve got your list of crops to include in your fall vegetable garden, it's time to get outside and start growing!