With summer coming to close most gardeners are ready to hunker down for the long winter. While it’s true that spring is the best time for a large range of plants, there are a number of fall plants to grow that can be planted before the first frost. Today, we’ll be taking a look at some of these plants, and we picked out our 5 favorites plants to start growing into the fall. Depending on your location, you can even start planting now and still have harvestable crops even as the temperature dips.
Fall Garden Basics
A fall garden largely depends on your hardiness zone as it will dictate which plants you can grow. All the plants on this list are cold/frost tolerant to a degree, but will still succumb to cold temperatures.
Outside of that, as mentioned, you’ll want to pick plants that are cold tolerant and can survive light frost. It’s very likely that towards the end of fall you’ll experience nightly frosts, so having plants that can survive this is critical.
Another technique is to focus on cold tolerant plants with a rapid growth cycle. These are plants that grow to maturity in 2-3 months, which means you can harvest them before it gets really cold. While these plants might not survive a hard frost, they’re often ready to harvest before that becomes a problem.
With those basics out of the way, let’s look at a couple of great plants you can grow in the fall.
Top Fall Garden Plants
There are lots of cold tolerant fall plants, but here’s a couple of our favorites. Keep in mind that there’s no way we could cover all the plants suitable to fall growing, nor do we know your particular hardiness zone which can influence which plants you can grow. Regardless, these plants are a good place to start your fall growing journey.
Lettuce is typically a very hardy plant and one that thrives in the cooler temperatures of fall. Most lettuce varieties can survive even down to a light frost, and even further with a cold frame. This makes them excellent to plant even towards the end of most plants growing season.
Look to plant lettuce no later than 4 weeks before the first frost. This will ensure that it has enough time to grow and be harvested. It’s always okay though to push that back a couple of weeks to get more growing time.
Lastly, note that there are a bunch of varieties of lettuce. Most of these are hardy and the above will apply, but a few might not fare so well in the cooler whether. Spend a few minutes and make sure the variety you’re looking at is hardy enough to survive cooler temperatures.
Garlic is another great plant to put down in the late fall. Most recommend waiting until after autumnal equinox which takes place in late September. You’ll want to plant around this time, and make sure to put them into well fertilized soil as they are quite nutrient hungry.
Garlic won’t actually sprout during the winter, but planting in early fall will give it a head start in the spring. It’s not unusual to see garlic be the first plant that pops back up in the spring, and is usually harvestable a short time later. You can always just plant garlic in the spring, but for best yields gardeners recommend putting this plant on your fall planting schedule.
Carrots are an interesting vegetable that requires a bit of warmth as well as cold. It’s best to germinate them in warmer temperatures, but giving them time in cooler temperatures will help them grow strong roots. This is a similar growth pattern to many other root vegetables like beets.
This combination makes them perfect to plant in later summer into the fall. Generally, look to plant them 1-2 months before your first frost date. This will give them enough time to grow and mature. In warmer climates, carrots can be grown year round.
Kale is another great fall veggie that is cold tolerant and easy to grow. With lots of varieties to choose from, there’s bound to be one that fits in your climate.
Most kale varieties can survive colder temperatures, and even a bit of frost. It won’t survive a harsh winter however, so look to plant at least a month in advance of frost in cooler areas and harvest before the peak of winter hits.
Also, keep in mind certain varieties are even more cold tolerant that others. Red Russian kale for example is known to tolerate cold and even frost quite well. It certainly won’t survive a midwest winter, but might give you an extra month or two of growing time.
Like lettuce, broccoli is a cool season crop that is often planted in early spring/fall. In fact, too warm of temperature will cause broccoli plants to bolt which will ruin the flavor of the plant.
Broccoli comes in a number of varieties; one of our favorites is the De Cicco variety. This is a smaller, quick growing variety that is perfect for indoor growing and smaller outdoor gardens. Its quick growth cycle also means it’s ready to harvest before the weather gets too cold, allowing it to be grown in a wider range of hardiness zones than slower growing varieties.
Best Fall Vegetables To Grow
While the above list is a start, there are a number of vegetables that can be planted in the fall. In general, many of these plants thrive when the temperatures start to drop, but will not survive once the frost periods begin. Even then though, certain varietes are able to better tolate the cold or grow fast enough to harvest before it’s a problem. With the above knowledge, you’re ready to keep growing your garden even as the temperature drops.