How to Start a Fall Garden

Fall Gardening: Extending the Season

When I started out gardening using pots and one small raised bed, I assumed that, come September, gardening season was over. Even though I lived in the mid-Atlantic region where there are warm days through October. Even though the tomatoes continued to produce, sometimes into November. I figured that whatever I got out of the garden was a bonus.

However, I have since learned to plan for a fall garden. That is, to finish the summer harvest in order to make room for the fall plants, those cool weather crops.

And that’s what I did. I wasn’t perfect with the timing of things, but I’m still learning. (Because, let’s face it, regular house projects take a lot of time away from gardening.)

So I did the next best thing and started my fall garden when I was able to. I cleared out my tomatoes (and harvested both the green and the red into chutney and sauce). I finished making pesto and pulled out the basil plants. And I cleared away the very tall kale plants that had turned almost palm tree-like, washing the leaves and freezing them for future sautés and soups.

My end of summer harvest
My end of summer harvest

What to Plant in a Fall Garden

I now had some cleared beds (and a lot of harvested summer produce). I was able to smooth the soil and choose my seeds. I chose to focus on cool weather plants: kale (a different variety this time), broccoli,. cauliflower, carrots, beets, radishes, lettuce, and collards.

Some of these I direct-sowed into the soil. The broccoli and cauliflower went straight into the ground, along with the carrots, radishes, and beets. You can succession plant radishes and lettuce to ensure you have more of a continuous supply throughout the season.

Cool weather crops that I started inside.

I chose to start the lettuce and greens inside. My hope was that they would have a head start in the warm house and have a grow light over them. I will transplant them to the raised beds when they are big enough.

I also planted garlic. The garlic will send up some shoots, then will over winter to be ready for harvest in the spring.

Other vegetables that can be planted in a fall garden are cabbage and fava beans.

Some cool weather crops that I direct sowed.

When to Plant a Fall Garden

The best time to sow fall crops is in mid to late summer. This ensures the plants have warm enough temperatures to grow and mature, providing you with a fall harvest.

For me, however, the next best time to plant a fall garden was…when I had time. This year has been extremely busy as we try to prioritize the most important home repairs (such as getting rid of mold in the basement) while at the same time making sure I preserve my harvest (it’s kind of my first time around the block, here).

So, instead of giving up and deciding it was too late to start a fall garden, I decided to turn it into a fall/winter garden. I direct-sowed what I could and started indoors the lettuces and greens. When it turns too cold, I will cover the crops with plastic and hope they stay warm enough.

This is all a grand experiment. That’s why I call this blog City Homestead Project. When I view each task as a project, it helps me with my expectations. If it fails, I learn from it. If it succeeds, I also learn from it.


When to Harvest Your Fall Crops

You can harvest your crops as they mature. Cabbage, kale and beets can tolerate frost and continue growing. Radishes and lettuce can tolerate light frost, especially under a row cover. Garlic can be mulched with straw and kept in the ground until spring.

What are some of your favorite fall crops to plant? What fall vegetables do you most like to eat? How will you plan your next garden?

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.