Is There Still Time to Plant Fall Vegetables?

August 7, 2009

I really thought that not talking about it would help ease the anguish of watching the days grow shorter as this summer’s vegetable gardening season continues to wind down.

Well an email I received from Renee yesterday helped me to see that I wasn’t the only one that was a little anxious over the situation and itching to grow a fall vegetable garden

Holding on to Summer’s Garden

“Hello Kenny, I love your website. This is my first time here and I learned so much valuable information to help us in our first time garden. I live in Northern New Jersey and have started a small raised bed vegetable garden with my 4 year old and 3 year old grandchildren.”

“We have had a fantastic experience. I can think of few greater joys than watching them plant seeds and pull up carrots. They are asking questions about the earth and bugs and birds. The problem is we don’t want it to end!”

“When I started, I never knew or even thought about a fall vegetable garden and after visiting your website, I want one! Today is August 6. Is there anything that we can sow directly in the ground and harvest this fall or is it too late? I was hoping to plant some more carrots, lettuce and spinach. Thank you very much.” — Renee

Hurdles to Cover in Cultivating Fall Vegetables

Brussel-Sprouts-TransplantHi Renee, we’re in luck because there’s actually plenty of time left to plant a fall vegetable garden but I wouldn’t drag my feet at this point to get it started. Instead I would get moving pretty fast, especially if you’re interested in growing root crops such as carrots, turnips, and beets.

Many imagine  cold temperatures to be the major obstacle to growing veggies into the fall months, but I think that the decreased light levels are even more of an issue, in particular for young seedlings that are just starting to grow during the shorter fall days. That’s why you don’t want to put off your direct seeding much longer. Of course the timetable will vary a bit depending on your growing region and fickle weather conditions.

I set out some broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, and Brussels sprout plants this week but they were from transplants that were at least six weeks old. You may be able to locate cold weather vegetable transplants at your local nursery, just don’t be duped into purchasing leftovers that have been sitting around since spring and are bound to be stunted and worthless.

The Easiest Crops for a Fall Vegetable Gardener

Beet-and-Turnip-SeedlingsNow is a great time to plant leafy green fall vegetables like kale, collards, spinach, lettuce, mustard, and arugula. These fast growers should have plenty of time to produce and can be harvested at any leaf size that you wish.

Just be sure to harvest individual leaves and leave the central growing tip so that the plants can continue to push out new leaf growth. These hardy greens will even over winter and re-grow to produce additional harvests for you next spring!

Just to prove how much growing season we actually do have left, it is too early for planting some winter vegetables such as mache, cress, winter lettuce, and garlic. In the case of fall planted garlic, shallots, and multiplier onions; I won’t plant those crops until late October or early November and they will be harvested next summer.

So if you are like Renee and myself and want to stubbornly continue to grow more veggies, there’s nothing standing between you and winter but a perfect season for greens, cole crops, and other cold hardy plants in the fall vegetable garden!

Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts:

  • dogsandfitness

    I already planted some Charleston wakefield and copenhagen cabbages, red Russian kale, and Calabrese broccoli. Still too hot for the lettuce where I am.

  • jerseyjohn

    When’s the latest point when I should plant seeds for fall?

  • Kenny Point

    John, the latest planting date for fall vegetables will vary depending on your specific growing region and the crops that you are interested in planting. It’s also affected by the weather conditions which are unpredictable, and how much effort you want to put into protecting your plants. I my area (zone 6) you should ideally be planning and planting your fall vegetables during July and very early August with a few exceptions. I’ll take a chance and continue planting fast growing leafy greens like kale a bit later.

  • I too indulged in planting vegetables in a raised bed this summer, but now I want to take on a fall garden. I had great success with the growth of my plants, but I had alot of difficulty with moles destroying and uprooting my beautiful plants and these large worms that constantly ate into my tomatoes and greens. How do I treat the soil to prepare for the winter crop and eliminate issues I had during the summer?

    Carol in Carolina

  • Bonnie

    Kenny I live in northeastern Mississippi, today is August 2nd, can I still plant cucumbers and expect a harvest?

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Bonnie, I’m not familiar with your specific climate but would guess that you could get another crop in in your region. It’s worth a try and let us know how successfully they grow for you.

  • Gail

    No one has mentioned green beans. I have successfully planted green beans until the end of Aug. for more than 20 years. Give them a try.

  • Romel

    Hi I live in South Africa, and we are just passing the end of summer is it a good time to plant tomato seed and chillies now?

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Romel, unfortunately I am not at all familiar with your climate or growing seasons so I really can’t offer any good advice on specific planting dates for you. It might be better to locate a local gardener in your region and find out when they plant their tomatoes and chillies. Good luck!

  • Michelle

    It’s the end of September in NJ, and I’m still enjoying plenty of fresh greenbeans, tomatoes, carrots and fall greens. With a cold box in the yard I can continue to eat kale and other winter greens throughout the winter…

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