Fall Vegetable Gardening
Every summer I vow to have a bountiful fall garden, but often have little to harvest because I didn’t plan ahead. In Buncombe County, our average first frost date is in October, so some fall veggies need to be planted now!
Grow what you’ll eat! Greens and root vegetable are top crops for fall planting, but cole crops—as well as some legumes and herbs—are good bets, too.
- Cole crops: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi
- Greens: arugula, chard, lettuce, mustard, spinach
- Herbs: dill, parsley
- Root crops: beets, carrots, parsnips, radishes, rutabagas, turnips
- Legumes: green beans
Decide on the number of plants you’ll need, and then check how much sun and room they’ll require. If you have a dedicated vegetable garden, you’ll likely have some bare spots where you’ve harvested spring cool season crops or where earlier plantings have succumbed to pests or diseases. Are there other planting areas where you can squeeze in some vegetables? Many veggies are attractive enough to spruce up your fall landscape.
No free space in your existing garden beds? Add some container plantings or expand your growing space by doing away with part of a lawn or planting a mulched area.
Transplants or seeds?
Except for beans and root crops, you can choose either seeds or transplants for your fall garden. Transplants give you a little longer to get your planting space ready and may be easier to get established in hot, dry weather. Transplants cost more than seeds, though, and you may have more trouble finding plants, especially of unusual varieties. Check your favorite plant and seed sources now to see what they have available for fall.
Timing is everything
Be sure to plant in time for your veggies to reach eating stage before cold weather settles in. You can harvest herb snippets and outer leaves of greens—and cole crops grown for their leaves—when the plants are still small, but green beans and most cole and root crops need time to mature. Seed packets and plant tags will give you average days to harvest, but here are some guidelines for planting dates to maximize your chances of producing a fall crop:
- July 1 to July 15: green beans
- July 1 to August 15: cole crops, parsley, and parsnips
- July 15 to September 15: carrots, lettuce, mustard, and turnips
- August 1 to September 15: arugula, beets, chard, dill, radishes, rutabaga, and spinach
You can push these limits if fall weather is mild, but frost will damage or kill tender plants, so consider how much money and time you’re willing to risk before putting in late plantings.
Don’t plant and forget
Be sure you will be around to water, weed, and fertilize your fall garden and watch for pests. Plan on daily attention to newly planted fall crops, especially if we have high temperatures and/or little rain.
The N.C. Cooperative Extension publication, Vegetable Gardening: A Beginner’s Guide, is an excellent tutorial and resource. To view, go to http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/home-vegetable-gardening-a-quick-reference-guide.
Enjoy your fall harvest!
Article written by Debbie Green, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.
Photographs of lettuce, beets, and spinach by Lucy Bradley, NCSU Cooperative Extension; radishes by Kim Ogburn, Buncombe County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.