After all, summer’s waning days shouldn’t mean the end of garden-to-table meals. Instead, it’s time to plan and plant the fall vegetable garden to extend your healthy harvests into crisp, cool autumn days…and beyond!
Why Plant a Fall Veggie Garden?
Less Watering Needed
Of course, you’ll still need to water, especially as young plants establish roots, as well as during periods of drought. But dragging hoses through the garden on 60-degree days isn’t quite as trying as when the thermometer shows nearly triple digits.
Also, consider installing drip irrigation now, while cooler temperatures make garden chores less taxing. Drip irrigation saves water by targeting the plants’ roots. Plus, turning on the facet and walking away while the drip line soaks the soil saves time–and your sanity. No tangled hoses to battle for you!
Some fall crops, like leafy greens, tolerate partial shade more readily than the summer stars, such as tomatoes and peppers. If you struggle to grow veggies in summer, you may find greater success with fall crops.
Harbor Fewer Pests
The main critters you’ll face are cabbage worms—which are actually caterpillars–which love to snack on veggies in the brassica family. Keep an eye out for cabbage white butterflies, which lay eggs on the veggies.
Check the underside of leaves for eggs or caterpillars. Or place a row cover over your brassicas to protect them from a cabbage worm infestation. The light, porous cover allows sunlight and water to reach the plants—but not pests.
Many Crops Taste Better in Cooler Weather
Kale and Brussels sprouts actually taste the sweetest with a frosty coating. Always check the growing information on your seed packets or plant tags to see what temperatures your veggies tolerate.
Just like summer crops, fall veggies need the right amount of light, great soil, consistent water, good drainage, and rich nutrients to thrive and produce a bountiful harvest.
Tasty Crops to Grow in Your Fall Veggie Garden
Flavorful Homegrown Lettuce
From easy-to-grow cut-and-come-again varieties to crisp heading lettuce, homegrown lettuce wins for fresh flavor, compared to the limp, green leaves you’ll find at the grocery store.
Whether you want to create delicious low-carb wraps for your favorite fillings, enjoy a classic Caesar salad, or prefer a leaf or two topping a tasty sandwich, homegrown lettuce is one of the easiest fall veggies to add to your garden. (Have you tried grilled lettuce? It’s the latest culinary craze.)
Bauer lettuce, with its dark green leaves and compact form, grows beautifully in raised beds, containers, windowboxes, or in-ground gardens. This oak-leaf variety tastes delicious harvested young or mature as a full-sized, rosette-shaped head.
A vigorous grower with high yields and good bolt resistance, the lettuce tastes delicious harvested as a cut-and-come-again variety or as a mature head. Ezpark offers good resistance to downy mildew and aphids, too.
A red butterhead variety, Marciano offers good disease-resistance to downy mildew and lettuce mosaic virus, plus it resists lettuce leaf aphids. Beautiful and easy-to-grow—a perfect combination.
Break Out the Brassicas In Your Fall Veggie Garden
What do these nutrient-rich veggies have in common? They all prefer cool weather for the best growth and flavor, with many members enjoying a touch of frost to taste their best.
Whether you adore roasted Brussels sprouts with a balsamic vinegar glaze, snack on cauliflower with your favorite dip, or start your morning with a kale-loaded green smoothie, homegrown brassicas taste delicious and make the perfect addition to the fall veggie garden.
Asian Greens for Stir Fries!
An All-America Selection, Asian Delight pak choi forms small to mid-sized heads with a tasty, tender white rib and dark green, textured leaves. This mini pak choi makes a perfect addition to small gardens or containers.
Bopak Organic pak choi also works well in containers and small spaces. The tender leaves and crisp, sweet stalks taste great in Asian recipes or eaten raw.
Try using the stalks in place of celery sticks, add the leaves to soups or stews, or grill the head for a smoky flavor. Harvest early for baby pak choi, or let the plant mature to full size.
Use pak choi as a “thriller” in fall container combos. Add lettuce and edible pansies, and you’ll enjoy a beautiful, colorful display—that you can eat!
Grow Nature’s Superfood
It’s a brassica, but kale is the over-achiever of the family. Rich in vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate, manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, magnesium, and beta-carotene, kale also packs antioxidants into its leaves. Perfect for soup, salads, or smoothies, you need to add kale to your fall veggie garden planning.
Eat (and Grow) Your Spinach
Fresh, homegrown spinach, though, is nothing like the mush Popeye downed to save Olive Oyl. Instead, the tender, sweet leaves taste delicious eaten fresh in a salad, baked on pizza, cooked in pasta or omelets, or added to smoothies. Plus, it’s easy to grow in a fall veggie garden.
Timing is everything, especially when planning a fall garden. Check your expected first frost date in your area—and then count backwards to know when to sow seeds or plant starts.
Look for the “days to maturity” on seed packets or plant tags to know when to start your fall veggie garden to ensure a good harvest before the first freeze. Consider adding low tunnels: these covers help protect crops from cold and extend the harvest season.
Grow Great Root Crops
While known for their tuberous roots, you can also enjoy the plants’ greens when you harvest the veggies, adding them to smoothies. Some cooks even use carrot leaves to create an unusual pesto, while beet greens make a tasty addition to stir-fries. These are truly “root-to-shoot,” full-use veggies for your Fall Veggie Garden!
Give Sicilian Artichoke garlic a try. Ranging from mild to spicy flavors, the heads also can change color—from pearly white to purple-streaked—depending on the growing conditions. Plus, its long storage period—up to 8 months—means that you’ll enjoy the spicy flavor in all your favorite Mediterranean dishes for ages.
Add Cool Season Herbs: They’re More than a Garnish
But homegrown parsley tastes so much better than the tired sprigs adorning diners’ dishes. From flavoring your favorite recipes to serving as the main ingredient in a riff of traditional basil pesto, parsley makes a great addition to your fall veggie garden.
Parsley root tastes delicious steamed, boiled, puréed, or creamed. Use it to add aroma and flavor to your favorite recipes.
So, while it may feel a tad warm to think about spiced pumpkin lattés and sweater-weather, it’s definitely not too early to start planning and planting your fall veggie garden.
When you’re creating savory dishes with fresh-from-the-garden produce this fall, you’ll realize that your late-summer extra effort was worth it.
“This post is provided as an educational/inspirational service of the National Garden Bureau and our members. Please credit and link to National Garden Bureau when using all or parts of this article.”