The fall season provides an excellent opportunity for extending yields, protecting soil, and seizing the cooler temperatures that appeal to specific crops. Autumn’s milder temperatures create the ideal growing conditions for many fall vegetables. With a little bit of fall garden planning, you can enjoy a successful harvest all the way up to the edge of winter.
As you transition your spring and summer garden into a fall one, we’ll help you choose the best fall vegetables to fill up the vacant spots in your garden beds for a more bountiful harvest.
Best Fall Vegetables to Grow
It may be surprising to discover just how many varieties of vegetables thrive well as second season and late-season crops. Read your seed packets and try to select varieties of these fall vegetables that have shorter maturation periods to give yourself the best chance of a complete and plentiful harvest. Sown directly into the garden from seed or grown into seedlings indoors, this robust list will round out your growing season with tons of fresh produce.
Grow beets in your fall garden by sowing seeds directly into the soil and planting in succession for a robustly staggered harvest. They enjoy the cooler temperatures of fall so that they can grow slowly and evenly, avoiding that bitter and woody unpalatable taste. For best results, sow seeds from mid to late summer for fall harvest.
Broccoli and Cauliflower
Brassica plants like broccoli and cauliflower thrive well in fall gardens. They produce well in the cooler days of fall to produce their vitamin-rich flower heads. The milder temperatures of fall provide the ideal steady growing environment for a flavorful crop. Since both require an average of 120 days to reach maturity, we recommend sowing seeds indoors in late spring and transplanting seedlings during mid-summer.
In the garden, bush bean varieties are quick producers, which makes them ideal candidates for a fall bumper crop of beans. To grow beans sow seeds directly into the garden at least 45 days before the average first frost date. Their vining cousins require a long growing season and produce on an ongoing basis. This makes them poor candidates for fall garden vegetables.
Cabbage is an exceptional fall vegetable to grow. They thrive on the cooler days of fall to produce their robust heads. The milder temperatures of fall provide the ideal steady growing environment for a flavorful crop. Since cabbages need an average of 100 to 120 days to reach maturity, we recommend starting seeds indoors in late spring and transplanting seedlings during mid-summer.
Select quick-growing, more compact cultivars for sweet, crunchy root vegetables in just five to six weeks. Plant carrots in succession, sowing seeds a week or two apart for a continual harvest.
Kale, Swiss Chard, Collards, and Mustard Greens
Hearty greens make great accents in fall and winter soups and stews and thrive in the cooler temperatures that the fall season brings. The seeds of these vitamin-rich fall vegetables germinate easily, and their leaves are hardy enough to withstand a light frost. In fact, the cooler bouts of temps can even improve the sweetness and texture of their leaves. Sow seeds for a fall harvest in mid-to-late summer or grow seeds indoors and transplant seedlings in late summer.
Corn comes in a variety of cultivars that require varying amounts of time to mature. Plan ahead when planting corn and sow seeds directly, counting the days until maturity backward from the average date of frost in your area. If you are getting a late start planting your fall vegetables, choose a corn variety with a short growing period and plant in late summer. This will give proper time for the plants to fully mature before the onset of cold temperatures.
Don’t miss the opportunity for fresh salad greens that continue through the fall months. If you are diligent, you can have a ready supply of lettuce available to harvest from early spring right up until the first frost. These quick-growing fall vegetables can be harvested beginning three weeks after seed sowing. Plant successive rows of seeds each week or two to maintain the flow to leaves and keep your salad bowl overflowing.
Snow peas do extremely well in cool weather, making them a premium fall vegetable. The cooler days of fall encourage more rapid growth and added sweetness of peas. Sow pea seeds approximately 11-12 weeks before the expected date of frost in your area. If you would like a more successive flow of snow peas, start a few weeks earlier and plant pea seeds each week for a rolling fall harvest.
Rutabaga and Turnips
Get the most out of rutabagas and turnips by planting them with the intent of a fall harvest. You’ll need to plan ahead when planting these fall vegetables because their seeds should be directly sown, as they require at least 100 days until harvest. Your wait will be worth it, as they will produce flavorful, giant root vegetables come fall.
Take full advantage of the radish’s quick maturation period by planting them for fall harvest. These deeply colored root vegetables only require three to four weeks from farm to table, and they are incredibly easy to grow. Utilize succession planting and sow seeds directly every week or so starting in mid to late summer.
Spinach is a quick producing crop that works well for succession planting. Sow seeds each week for a continual harvest of leafy greens. They are ideal for growing in early spring and also in the fall months when cooler temperatures are more prominent, as spinach plants can bolt in extremely hot weather, causing bitter-tasting leaves.
Some of the most quintessential fall vegetables to harvest in your fall vegetable garden are pumpkins. Plan ahead and plant pumpkin seeds by late May to early July in full sun and allow plentiful garden space to be ready for a fall pumpkin harvest.
Tips for Planting Fall Vegetables
Now that you know what vegetables to plant for a fall harvest, here are some tips for how to get the most out of your fall vegetables.
Calculate Frost Date
It is essential to identify when you can anticipate the first frost. You can calculate your ideal planting date by taking the date of the average frost in your area and subtracting the number of days until maturity from the back of your seed packet. This is the latest point that you should consider planting your seeds to ensure that your fall vegetables will produce fully before freezing temperatures conclude your growing season.
Amend the Soil
When planting in mid-to-late summer for a fall crop, you are likely going to plant in spaces where plants have already been harvested. These spots have been depleted of nutrients by previous crops, so it is vital to amend the soil with well-decomposed compost and some fertilizer before planting fall vegetables.
Practice Companion Planting
Practice companion planting in your fall garden to give your fall crops an extra boost, maximize your space, draw beneficial pollinators, and ward off unwanted pests. Interplanting vegetables, herbs, and fall blooming flowers can positively impact the growth of your fall vegetables later in the growing season when the sun is lower in the sky and available for less time.
Mulch and Watering
Your fall plants will likely share space with some already established crops, so it is crucial to give them extra attention by mulching your garden and watering it properly. Young plants will be planted in the heat of mid-to-late summer and will need the temperature regulation and moisture retention provided by fall mulching. Seedlings might also require more water as they compete with other established neighbors for water and essential nutrients.