As the summer months draw to a close and temperatures start to decline, out natural tendency is to spend more time indoors and less out in the garden. However, this means that we are limiting ourselves from growing some delicious fall crops in our very own backyards! This fall, make the effort to stay outdoors a little longer and cultivate your very own garden of fresh salad ingredients.
There are some wonderful greens and root vegetables that grow happily in the cooler months and even taste better when they come to maturity in colder temperatures. Most fall vegetables are nutrient-dense, which is exactly what your body craves when the cooler months arrive.
The first thing you need to do when fall planting is have a general idea of when your first frost will be, then you can count backwards from there to determine when to plant. Below are some of the best vegetables you can plant for delicious fall eating.
When to plant: Mid summer
When to harvest: 75 to 120 days after planting
Soil type: Any
Pumpkins might be the quintessential fall vegetable. Not only are they a staple of any fall holiday meal, but they are also a significant element of Halloween decor. They do take a lot of effort to grow, though, as they require a whopping 75 to 120 days to mature. Pumpkins thrive off lots of water, lots of space, and a healthy amount of high-nitrogen fertilizer. Pumpkin is packed with Vitamins A, C, E and B-6, stuffed with carotenes, and rich in minerals including calcium and potassium.
Not just for pumpkin pie and jack-o-lanterns, this plant makes delicious soups and can also be baked or steamed. Pumpkin seeds are dense with fiber and iron and some cultures will even eat the greens. There are dozens of varieties with adorable monikers like Cinderella, Baby Bear, Fairytale, and Aladdin, just to name a few. Choose your pumpkin based on what you are going to be using it for–some are better for carving, others are perfect for the fall tradition of baking a casserole or stew in individual little pumpkin bowls.
2. Brussels Sprouts
When to plant: Mid summer
When to harvest: 90 days after planting
Soil type: Any; Neutral
Healthy and versatile, Brussels sprouts are cropping up in menus across the country with unique and tasty preparations that have made them one of the most popular vegetables on the market. Halved and roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper they are a delicious side dish, or sliced thin and tossed with walnuts, pecorino, olive oil and lemon juice make for an amazing salad.
Brussels sprouts don’t hit peak growth until the weather starts to cool off, so don’t panic if your plants appear dormant. They’ll take off once the weather cools. They need to be planted in full sun but can withstand temperatures down to 20°. Brussels sprouts take 90 days to reach maturity.
When to plant: Summer (indoors), transplant to outdoors once temperature cools
When to harvest: 70 to 100 days after planting
Soil type: Sandy; Neutral
Napa, savoy, bok choy, green and red–there are dozens of varieties of cabbages, most of which are ideal for fall gardening and all of which are delicious given the right preparation. With a little bit of extra care, you can maintain your cabbages well into the winter.
Cabbages dislike hot weather and sun, so if you hit a sudden hot spell, be sure to protect them, and keep your soil moist and cool with compost or bark. Most cabbages mature in about 70 days, although some take as many as 100. With this many varieties of cabbage, it would be wise for you to do your research or check your seed packet for more specific estimates.
When to plant: Mid to late summer
When to harvest: 70 days after planting
Soil type: Sandy; Neutral to slightly acidic
Nothing beats the taste of fresh, home-grown broccoli from your garden. This versatile health food can be enjoyed raw, steamed, sautéed, roasted, or pureed into soups. Their dense heads soak up flavor and are especially good in a stir-fry.
It takes about 70 days for broccoli to reach maturity, and it’s important to harvest them before the buds start to flower or else they’ll turn bitter. After harvesting the large head, broccoli will continue to produce smaller offshoots, giving you delicious flavor throughout the fall months. Interestingly enough, broccoli is a member of the cabbage family. Use mulch to suffocate weeds and keep temperatures down around the shallow roots.
When to plant: Beginning to mid summer
When to harvest: 50 to 70 days after planting
Soil type: Sandy; Neutral
Beets are known for their distinctive purple-red color but also come in golden yellow and pink varieties. Try them with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar for a wonderful combination of flavors. The dense flesh also holds up well to canning, freezing or pickling. These qualities make beets a sturdy plant to work with, which is great for beginners.
Beet greens have a higher nutrition value than the bulb and are delicious in a salad or cooked like kale and chard. They prefer neutral soil but need a high phosphorous level to germinate. Beets can tolerate temperatures as low as 30° F and mature in 50 to 70 days, depending on the variety.
When to plant: Early to mid summer
When to harvest: 60 days after planting
Soil type: Loamy; Neutral to slightly Alkaline
Kale is yet another vegetable that has developed a cult following over the last few years, and with good reason. Kale is a wonderful leafy green that is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. It’s perfect for marinated salads, where its firm structure stands up to the marinade without wilting, and it’s delicious stirred into soups in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking. Kale also works well in smoothies and can even be misted with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, and baked until crispy for a delicious and healthy snack.
Kale reaches maturity in about 60 days, and requires neutral or slightly Alkaline soil.
When to plant: Late summer to early fall
When to harvest: 45 days after planting
Soil type: Loamy; Neutral
Spinach, which is known for being high in iron, is easy to cook and is also delicious raw. It is higher in nutrition than most garden greens, rich in Vitamins A, B and C and high in iron and calcium.
Spinach takes about 45 days to reach maturity, but large leaves can be bitter, so pinch off tender young leaves as soon as they ready, letting the inner leaves continue to mature. Be sure to plant your spinach seeds when your soil temperature is below 70° or they won’t germinate. Spinach can overwinter for a delightful spring crop.
When to plant: Early to mid fall
When to harvest: 25 to 50 days after planting
Soil type: Any; lots of moisture
Last but not least, consider planting a radish crop. Radishes are ready to be harvested in only 25 to 50 days.
Radishes come in several varieties and add a distinctive, peppery zing to salads. If you’ve only eaten spicy, woody radishes, growing your own will allow you to harvest them early when they are still fresh, crisp and peppery. They need plenty of moisture in well-drained soil, but are extremely tolerant to different types of soil.
Whatever you choose to grow, fall gardening is a delicious and fun way to enjoy the bounty of your hard work through the autumn months. Be sure to start your planning now in order to allow your plants enough time to grow to be enjoyed this fall.