Root vegetables, brassicas, and a few other crops that prefer cool weather are the best fall vegetables to plant in your garden. Keep in mind that most fall veggies actually need to be sown or started during the summer. Use your first frost date to help determine when to plant fall vegetables. Add a few weeks to the maturity date listed on seed packets or plant starts when figuring out when to plant each crop for an autumn garden. The published timeframe is usually based on the lengthening days of spring. When you’re planting for fall, the days are getting shorter, so your plants will need longer to mature.
Root Vegetables to Plant for Fall
Root vegetables are among the best vegetables to plant in fall. Root veggies will also grow during the summer in most places, but they aren’t as tasty. They have a sweeter, more pleasant taste when they mature in cool weather.
Ball turnip greens are grown for their root and their greens. Their flavor is best when they mature in cool weather, so they’re an ideal option for fall gardens. You can start planting turnips in August for a fall crop and, depending on where you live, continue planting until early October. They can generally be harvested five to ten weeks after planting.
Beets can be grown throughout spring, summer, and fall. Seeds for fall beets should be directly sowed into your garden about four to six weeks in advance of your first frost date. They will generally make it through a few rounds of frost, though you will need to pick them before your first freeze.
Planting carrots in mid-to late summer will provide you with a carrot harvest in fall or winter. Carrots that mature when there is a chill in the air–even if it’s below freezing–will taste much sweeter than carrots that are planted in the spring to mature in summer. If your winters are fairly mild, you can even keep growing carrots planted in your fall garden through winter for an early spring harvest.
Like carrots, parsnips taste best when they mature in cold weather. These root vegetables need around four months to mature. If you plant them in late summer or early fall, you’ll be able to harvest them in the winter. You can also let them keep growing through winter to enjoy an early spring harvest.
Radishes are fast-growing vegetables that prefer cooler temperatures. Depending on the variety, radishes planted in late summer for a fall harvest typically take one to two months to mature. With that in mind, the months of August and September are the perfect times to plant fall radishes for an autumn garden.
Midsummer is the ideal time to plant rutabagas so that they’ll mature in your fall garden. It’s best to plant rutabagas at least 90 days before your expected first frost date. Planting around that timeframe will give them time to grow through the rest of summer and into fall, then mature around or shortly after your first frost.
Brassicas to Plant for Fall
Plants in the brassica family are cool weather, frost-resistant crops. They’ll need to start growing while it’s still warm outside, but they’ll taste best when they mature in fall or even winter.
Broccoli generally does better in a fall garden than in a spring garden, though you will need to get your seeds started during the summer. Fall broccoli should be direct sown between 85 and 100 days before your expected first frost. If you’re in an area with really hot summers, you may want to start your seeds indoors under a grow light, then transplant them out closer to the end of summer.
Brussels sprouts should be planted six to ten weeks before the first frost. This means you’ll need to plant them in mid to late summer and let them grow through fall. They tend to taste best after they have been through a few touches of frost or even a freeze, so don’t be in a rush to harvest them. Brussels sprouts can survive in temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cabbage is a cool-weather crop that should be planted toward the end of summer. Cabbage varieties vary widely in terms of how long it takes them to mature, so be sure to check the expected growing time for any variety you plan to plant. Generally speaking, it’s best to start growing them around two months before your first frost date. They will generally do fine through several touches of frost and maybe even a light freeze.
Collards should be planted approximately 80 days prior to your first frost date. These tasty greens can be harvested young to add to salads or allowed to mature longer so that they develop large leaves you can cook and enjoy as a side dish. Collard greens taste great cooked on their own or mixed in with other cool weather greens such as turnip tops and mustard greens.
Kale that is grown in the fall tastes entirely different from kale grown in warm conditions. It is much sweeter and much less bitter when grown in cool conditions. For best results, plant kale around two months before your first frost date. It will actually survive winter in most locations, so you can enjoy fresh greens throughout the winter when you include kale in your fall garden.
Kohlrabi is a cold-weather vegetable that, like other brassicas, should be grown in spring or fall. For a fall crop, direct sow kohlrabi seeds in your garden about 90 days before your first crop. That way, it will start growing during summer but will mature when conditions are chilly, which is exactly what this cruciferous vegetable needs.
Mustard greens have very limited ability to tolerate heat. It’s best to sow them about a month before your expected first frost date. That way, temperatures will have already started to cool down before these plants go into your garden. They’ll grow quickly, so you’ll be able to harvest small greens for salads within a few weeks and larger greens for cooking shortly thereafter.
Other Vegetables for a Fall Garden
There are a few other vegetables that are ideally suited for an autumn garden. Consider adding the following items to your list of vegetables to plant in fall.
Green beans are typically grown as a summer vegetable. However, since bush beans mature in less than two months, you can plant a second round for a fall crop after your summer plants are done. Just allow at least 60 days between the time you plant and your expected planting date to give your fall bush beans a chance to mature. They may make it through a light frost, but not a freeze.
Garlic should be started in the fall, though it won’t actually be harvested until summer. Garlic needs to go into the ground at least three or four weeks before the first freeze of the year. Gardeners generally plant garlic shortly after the fall equinox, though the important thing is to make sure it has time to get established before the ground freezes. Garlic is usually ready for harvest by June or July.
Leeks take a long time to reach full maturity – up to 130 days. They don’t like the heat of summer, and they are tolerant of cold conditions. In areas with fairly mild winters, they can grow through fall and winter in preparation for a spring harvest. You’ll need to plant them far enough in advance of the first frost that they’ll be established before it gets very cold. They can be eaten at any stage of maturity, so you can harvest and eat some during fall and winter.
Lettuce does not do well in the heat of the summer, but it grows very well in a fall garden. Head lettuce takes up to 90 days to mature, so you’ll want to plant that type a little more than three months before the first frost. Looseleaf lettuce matures very quickly, so you can wait longer to plant it. Start planting leaf lettuce as soon as the temperature cools down and continue succession planting until around 30 days before your first frost.
Swiss chard can grow in just about any season, though fall is the ideal time for this plant to grow. It tastes best when it matures during cool weather. With that in mind, it’s ideal to sow swiss chard for your fall garden around 50 days before your first frost date. That way, it’ll get established before the days get too short but will mature in conditions that maximize its flavor.
Choose the Right Plants for Your Fall Garden
Planting vegetables for fall can be just as rewarding as planting crops in spring or summer. Choose veggies that you and your family and/or friends will enjoy eating, and time your plantings properly based on their cold tolerance and when they should be harvested. Consider your climate carefully and make informed decisions about what to plant and when so you’ll get a good return on your investment of time, energy, and seed (or plant start) money.