How to Plan Ahead for Your Fall Garden

Written by Diana of A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa.

It’s definitely the season for radishes, however, the ones in the picture above were harvested in the Fall of last year.

I was really excited to write this post because anyone that follows my blog knows that my heart and passion is in my garden.  It’s my source of therapy and meditation as I sow, tend to and, yes… even pull weeds.

I’m not claiming to always have a green thumb, however, year after year I learn a bit more and for me it was a revelation when I learned about fall gardening.

Many of us are into preserving our own food. This revolution has sparked backyard gardens throughout the nation.  In order to preserve the most amount of food from your garden to carry into the winter months, you need to start planning a Fall garden now.

All Photos by Diana Bauman

That’s right, In order to have a productive Fall garden (depending on your region), your vegetables need to be sowed or planted by late July into the first week in August.

This can sound a little daunting especially for newbie gardeners, however, with a few tips you’ll be on your way to growing a bountiful harvest to carry you into the Winter.

What Can I Grow in My Fall Garden?

Greens:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Pak/Bak Choi (Asian Greens)
  • Arugula
  • Green, beautiful, Lettuce
  • Collards

Brassicas

  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts

Root Vegetables: (keep well for months in a cool crisper or cellar)

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Celeriac
  • Rutabaga (MY NEW FAVORITE!)
  • Radishes
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes (In some regions)

Other Veggies (specifically grown to preserve)

  • peas
  • green beans

It’s pretty amazing to visually see how much food can be grown late in the season.  One thing to note as well is that it’s during this season that harvested greens, root vegetables and brassicas taste their best.

Let’s Plan!

1. Starting seeds indoors. Count back 12-14 weeks from your Average First Fall Frost Date. All of your brassicas, and kale need to be started indoors where the temperature is cooler.  When your seedlings are about 3 weeks along, transfer them outdoors, preferably on a cloudy day.

2. Add some nutrients to your soil. You’re probably going to plant where a previous vegetable had already been growing.  It’s a good idea to add a bit of compost or worm castings to give your Fall crops optimal growing conditions.

3. Mulch. Since the days are still going to be hot, make sure to add some organic mulch to your Fall crops such as grass clippings or straw to keep moisture in the ground.

4. Water. Make sure to keep your seedlings moist especially if your trying to germinate seeds directly sown into your garden.  One tip, soak your seeds and leave them in the refrigerator overnight.  The next day sow them in your garden.  This should speed up germination.

5. Pest Prevention. One of the most difficult aspects of starting seeds and putting out new plants during the summer are bugs.  My biggest tip is to use floating row covers especially on your brassicas to inhibit cabbage worms.

Let’s Plant!

12 to 14 weeks before your first frost

  • Direct-sow beans, parsnips, rutabagas, and begin planting lettuce and radishes.
  • Start brassica seedlings and kale indoors, and set out the seedlings within 3 weeks.

10 to 12 weeks before your first frost

  • Set out brassicas and kale.
  • Direct-sow beets, carrots, collards, leeks and scallions, along with more lettuce and radishes. In some areas, even fast-maturing peas and potatoes will do well in the fall garden.

8 to 10 weeks before your killing frost

  • Direct-sow arugula, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, turnips, spinach, mustard, pac choi and other Asian greens.
  • Sow more lettuce and radishes, including daikons.

6 to 8 weeks before first frost

  • Make a final sowing of spinach.
  • Make a final sowing of lettuce beneath a protective tunnel or frame. (I have hoops over one of my beds for my Christmas Salads.)

On or around your first killing frost date

  • Every fall garden should include garlic and shallots to be harvested in the Summer of the next year ;)

Take it one step at a time.  If your a newbie gardener, try one green and root vegetable for your Fall garden.  If you’re ready to step up your game, add a few varieties and keep track of what produces well and what your able to preserve.

Most importantly, no matter where you’re at, have fun.  Also, try to remind yourself, if you don’t meet your expectations there’s always the farmers market.

Do you have a Fall garden? Please share what you grow or would like to grow during the Fall to preserve for the Winter.

About Diana

As a first generation American, Diana shares her family’s traditional Spanish and Mexican recipes at her blog, A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa. As a mami and urban homesteader she also writes about her faith, family, organic gardening, raising backyard chickens and preserving the harvest.

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Comments

  1. This is such a helpful post!!! Thanks!

  2. I, like you, am learning as I go with my backyard garden. And in fact, I have already planted some root veggies that will be ready to eat this Fall.

    However, I have a question about greens. I currently have a number of different lettuces, spinach and arugula growing well. By July, when the weather is hot here in Boise, the greens burn out. If I want a new supply for the Fall season, do I re-plant 8-10 weeks before Frost?

    • Melinda, I know, it’s a learning process, huh?

      With greens, yes, you’ll want to make sure to plant them 8-10 weeks before your fall frost but remember to start spinach and any other large heads of lettuce indoors, 2 weeks before that.

      To extend your Fall greens, plant them in a place where you can cover them as the temps start to drop.

      Also, another great thing about greens is that most you can overwinter. If it’s getting late in the season, cover them with some mulch of fallen leaves or straw, and by next spring, they’ll take off on their own.. early! A better chance of good Spring greens ;D

      Good Luck!!
      Diana@Spain-In-Iowa’s last post: A Recipe- Whole Wheat- Green Spring Garlic and Prosciutto Tart

  3. Russell at Chasing Delicious says:

    What an awesome resource! Ive been thinking about starting a fall garden and this just might be my inspiration to do so. I’ve been growing my own herbs for the last couple years so I think it’s time for me to graduate to vegetables.

    I didn’t realize I could grow so many delicious things in the fall too! What will you be growing this fall? I think I definitely want to try all the brassica and hmm. So many to choose from!

  4. Wow, this is very inspiring… as a first time spring/summer gardener, I hadn’t even thought of fall yet. I may just take your suggestion of trying one or two kinds of plants to see how it goes! I’m wondering when you usually have the last harvest in your fall garden — do you really get salad on Christmas? And do you have any tips about picking out a good space for a fall garden… will I need a very sunny spot or is some shade ok? Also, do you recommend a particular seed company?
    Jennifer’s last post: How many Chicken Salad Sandwiches can I eat after a five mile hike

  5. Shreela says:

    I like how you made this possible for all the USDA zones, thanks! Some will probably be freezing when I’m putting out seed.

  6. This is a great post! Thanks so much- you make it seem like I can really do this. I’ve been growing tomatoes and strawberries but have been hesitant to really go for it. This is inspiring. I am wondering if this same schedule can apply to me as I live in South Florida (zone 10.) It seems as though all my gardening has to be done backwards season-wise so it makes me nervous. Thank you. :)

  7. What a fabulous post, Diana! I often fail at a fall garden because I am still dealing with my summer garden, but you’ve inspired me to try a small plot this year. I know it will be worth it come winter.
    Shaina’s last post: Homemade Ginger Ale for Summer Evenings

  8. Thank you for this super helpful post. I’m a little disappointed in my spring garden, but you remind me to persevere!

  9. Great post! This is really helpful to begin planning my Fall Garden! Thanks!

  10. LOVE this post. Just started some seedlings today, more to come soon!
    Kateisfun’s last post: Speaking of Dr Newman…

  11. Thanks for the reminder! Putting more seeds in is on my list for this week.

    Next year, I’m going to have to invest in row covers. The cabbage caterpillars were pretty bad this year, plus the harlequin bugs are into my kale right now. I’ve been gardening for almost 20 years, but I haven’t gotten into the season extending techniques much or using row covers to protect my crops. Time to learn!
    Barb @ A Life in Balance’s last post: how does your garden grow: potato barrel update

  12. Enjoy your site-good information. Keep up the good work.

  13. Agreed. This is a great planner. This is our first year attempting four season gardening and this really offers practical advice. Do you use a cold frame at all to start or overwinter things at this time?

  14. Bonnie R says:

    Just found your website and am excited to follow you. Thanks for information on fall gardening

  15. This year was the first time I planned a fall garden, the beginning of July is always taken by vacation planning . This year I started seeds for brassica inside, left for vacation, made sure I had about an inch of water at the bottom of the tray. Everything worked fine and now I am enjoying the benefits of planning in the middle of summer, have been picking kohlrabi, chicory, kale, chards and some string beans I planted.
    Domenico Giammona’s last post: Welcome To My First Post. Summer Garden Final Harvest

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