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Many home gardeners get excited to plant their gardens in the spring with plans for their summer harvests: salad, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. However, many people stop planting after those first plants go in! You can grow so much more food if you plant throughout the season. One of the best times to plant is in the fall for your fall garden!
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Naturally, your growing area and timelines will differ from my own. I plant in the Pacific Northwest in zone 8b.
However, most people can grow the same fall garden crops around the country! You just may need to plant yours earlier or later than others. The greatest concern is your frost date since many plants will die off due to the cold.
15 Must-Have Crops for Your Fall Garden
Be sure to tweak your planting dates depending on your location. For me, I’ve been adding fall garden plants since mid-July but will continue to plant seeds in my raised bed garden until September!
1. Salad and lettuce
After the height of the summer heat, the cooler fall temperatures are a wonderful time to grow salad and lettuce! The average lettuce takes about 6-8 weeks to hit their full, mature size. You can harvest salad greens in just about a month!
Be sure to succession plant that salad by planting a new row or section every week or two. This will ensure you have fresh greens well into the fall! I love this European Mesclun salad mix.
Time to mature:
- Salad leaves 30 days
- Lettuce heads 45-65 days
Kale is a gardener’s best friend! My spring planting of kale is so lush and green, even throughout the summer, that I almost didn’t plan any fall kale! It’s hardy even in high temperatures and will be one of the very last things you’ll be able to harvest into the winter. I’ve even picked kale in the winter with frost on the ground!
Plus, I love that kale is good for fresh eating or cooking. I like to wash mine, chop it into shreds, and store it in a bag in the fridge. Then, I can either massage it with oil, lemon juice, and salt for a salad or I can drop it in to sauces, stir fries, and other dishes. It’s incredibly versatile!
Time to mature: 70-80 days
Did you know collards are part of the same family as kale? They’re a great green for the fall and will grow large, round leaves people love to use for low carb wraps!
Time to mature: 60-75 days
4. Chicory (Radicchio, escarole, endive, etc.)
Have you ever tried these Italian greens? Radicchio, escarole, and endive are all bitter greens best grown in the fall. Why? These plants actually taste sweeter after a frost! They are incredibly hardy and like kale, you’ll be picking them late into the winter. They don’t tolerate as much cold as kale, but they’ll outlive your lettuce for sure.
There are so many types of radicchio especially and the stories are beautiful! Apparently, it’s notorious that villages in Italy each cultivate their own special type of radicchio. There is even a type Italians store underwater for weeks to blanche! It also comes in all different shades and colors: pink, red, green, speckled, etc.
Plants in the chicory family can be eaten raw or cooked.
How to prepare bitter greens for a timid palate
Not sure if you’re into bitter greens? My favorite entry-level bitter green is escarole. It’s more like a leafy lettuce with better taste and texture. It does well being dressed with a little acid, like apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, with salt and oil. This mellows the bitterness a bit and it’s so good
Time to mature: 80-90 days
5. Large brassicas: cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, etc.
The entire brassica family loves to grow in the fall garden! Since these plants take longer to mature and fruit, you do generally want to plant them closer to mid-summer, like July.
Be sure to look for quick maturing varieties, especially of the cabbage and cauliflower.
Time to mature:
- Cauliflower 85-115 days
- Broccoli 55-65 days
- Cabbage 80-180 days
- Kohlrabi 45-60 days
6. Salad turnips
You can also try growing salad turnips! These took over the farmers market world a few years ago and they are NOT like the turnips of yore. Salad turnips are usually smaller, picked between the size of a golf ball and a baseball. They do not require cooking and are crisp and delicious!
Time to mature: 30-50 days
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The fall is a great time for growing beets! They like the cooler weather and you’ll love having fresh beets to roast with winter squash. They take about 45-65 days to mature so plant at least 2 months before your first frost date!
There are plenty of beet varieties to explore, too! I love how sweet golden beets are, and the striped Chioggias are beautiful! There are so many great red beet varieties, too, though! I’ve been growing Detroit Red for a few years now and like them.
Time to mature: 50-60 days
Fall carrots are so delicious! Their greens will die off with cold winter freezes, but did you know the roots will keep in the ground throughout the winter?
Carrots take 60 to 80 days to mature, so you’ll need at least 3 months of growing time.
Short on time? Try growing a finger variety for carrots that only produce small roots or seek out early varieties that grow quickly.
Time to mature: 60-80 days
Radishes are one of the first plants we grow and harvest in the spring. They always astonish me by germinating nearly overnight! Especially with the length of the summer days, you’ll notice radishes germinate quickly.
They only take a few weeks to mature, so you’ll have these ready to eat on your table right away.
I love to grow French Breakfast radishes for their milder flavor, but there are plenty of different types to explore!
Time to mature: 21-30 days
Spinach is very prone to bolting in the summer! You’ll think your plants look great and the next day, they’ve bolted. It’s frustrating and near me, local farmers don’t bother growing spinach in the summer: just the spring and fall.
That means your timing is perfect! Spinach will be ideal in your fall salads and as you know, it’s delicious steamed or cooked down with parmesan and ricotta for ravioli filling.
Time to mature: 25-35 days
11. Bok choy
I never grew up eating bok choy, pak choi, or many of the Asian greens, but they are so good! These greens are wonderful in a stir fry or sautee and their thick stems are sweet and crunchy.
They grow really quickly! Bok choy does bolt quickly in the summer heat, so planting them later in the summer for a fall garden is just right. This is the one I’m growing right now!
Did you know there are miniature bok choy varieties? They’re just barely larger than brussel sprouts and are cooked whole!
Time to mature: 37-50 days
We succession plant cilantro all summer long as it’s great to have around for homemade salsa and noodle bowls! It’s so fragrant, too.
Cilantro grows well with others and you can easily interplant it with your brassicas or salad.
Time to mature: 50-55 days
Parsley takes a bit longer to mature than cilantro, but it will last longer and can handle some cooler weather. I love adding parsley on top of roasted carrots and it freshens up quinoa salads.
Time to mature: 70-90 days
Since peas take a bit more time to mature than other plants, you’ll definitely want to plant them at least 3 months before your first frost date if you want to ensure your harvest. They don’t handle high heat very well or a lot of cold weather, so they can be a bit fickle.
However, fresh snap peas or snow peas will be perfect for your fall dinners! Definitely consider growing these if you have enough time for the plants to fully mature.
Time to mature: 60-65 days
Have you ever grown garlic before? It is such a rewarding crop! I never thought about growing garlic ever until I worked on a local farm known for their great garlic. They even have garlic parties in June where we pull and peel the garlic for drying. It’s such a great way to build community and I love fresh, flavorful garlic all year long.
The window for fall planting garlic really varies by your growing zone, so check out this great garlic planting chart! For my area, they recommend planting in late October through November.
Where to buy garlic cloves for planting
The general rule in the gardening world is to NOT plant grocery store garlic. Most grocery store garlic is irradiated and no longer ideal for planting. Instead, seek out a local farm that grows garlic or order seed garlic from a reputable dealer.
Time to mature: 290 days (plant in the fall, harvest in early summer)
There are even more plants you can grow in your fall garden, but these are my favorites to grow!
Does the idea of growing your own food feel intimidating?
I get it! There is so much information. Hardiness zones, germination and maturity rates, pests, soil types, watering amounts, etc. Although gardening is incredibly rewarding and you can be successful with minimal knowledge or experience, it can also challenge you in many ways!
If you want a step-by-step guide to growing the best produce you can for your family, I highly recommend the book “The Beginners Guide to Backyard Homesteading” by Lisa Lombardo!
Not only will she walk you through where to plant, how to build raised beds, what types of plants to grow when, how to succession plant, and how to grow individual crops, but she will even teach you how to raise animals, fruit trees, bees, and more.
She’s a powerhouse of information and this book is a must-have resource for anyone trying to take charge of their food supply. This book will be a lifesaver as you set up your garden!
Fortunately for us, Lisa’s offered to give a copy to one of my lucky readers! She sent me a copy in advance for review and I cannot believe how organized and straightforward it is. Like, she even breaks down how many hours you’ll spend watering and planting so you can plan that into your life.
Her chart for succession planting simplified the clunky list I was keeping in my head and I can’t wait to use it for next year’s garden!
Order your copy of the book right here!
The Beginner’s Guide to Backyard Homesteading Giveaway!
This giveaway is open to US residents ages 18 and up only. Entries must be received by 6:00 pm Pacific Standard Time on September 7, 2020. One winner will be chosen at random on September 7, 2020. No purchase necessary. Est. retail value: $17.99. You understand that you are providing your information to the owner of Milk Glass Home. These images are reprinted with permission from The Beginner’s Guide to Backyard Homesteading.
The giveaway has ended.
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