Spring isn’t the only time to dig into your garden and plant veggies or sweetly scented flowers. Many types of edibles actually prefer cooler weather, so they’ll thrive in the autumn days to come. Now’s the time to pull out any crops that are finishing up or struggling and replace them with a few fall vegetables. Even if you’re short on space, you can plant many types of vegetables in pots and containers on your deck, patio or balcony.
The 10 Best Fall Vegetables to Plant in Your Garden
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Here’s What to Know Before You Dig In
Before setting your heart on a specific plant, read the seed package or plant tag to learn the “days to maturity” to ensure your vegetables will be ready before the first frost (find your average first frost date here through your local university coop extension). Don’t skip this step! Different varieties mature at different rates, so pay attention to what kinds you’re choosing. Also, most vegetables need full sun, which is 6 or more hours per day—although some greens, such as Swiss chard, will tolerate a bit of shade. And make sure to water! If the soil feels dry and crumbly or if it’s pulling away from the sides of the container, it’s time to give your seeds or baby plants a drink. Greens, such as lettuce, especially like to stay moist when sprouting.
Now, roll up your sleeves and get planting! Your garden’s ready to give you a second harvest before it goes down for a long winter’s nap. Here are the best fall vegetables to plant in your garden now:
Spinach is one of those vegetables that’s pricey at the supermarket, and it tends to go bad fast in the crisper drawer. But you easily can grow your own from seed in as little as 30 to 40 days. Look for varieties that say they’re heat-resistant if you live in the south where it’s still hot in autumn. Or choose cold-hardy types if you live in the north, because spinach can withstand a light frost. Pick baby spinach when it’s a few inches long for salads, or sauté mature leaves with garlic and olive oil.
Kale doesn’t mind the cold; in fact, some kale becomes sweeter after a light frost. And some kinds will survive the winter (yes, even under snow!) to green up again next spring. Even if you don’t think you like kale, try one of the less curly varieties, such as Red Russian kale, which have more tender leaves and mild flavor. You also can harvest baby leaves for salads. Most types of kale mature in 60 to 85 days, so seeds are fine for planting now, though transplants are better if you’re short on time before the first frost.
Garlic is a crop that takes some patience: You plant the bulbs now in fall to harvest next year, in late spring or early summer, depending on the type. Soft-neck types consist of many cloves and store a long time. You even can braid them together to store. Hard-neck types offer the bonus of harvesting the long, curling stems, or garlic scapes (which have a mild garlic flavor), next summer before the bulbs are ready to dig up. Use the scapes in quiches, or sauté in olive oil and toss over pasta with other seasonal vegetables.
Radishes are one of the fastest-growing crops in the garden. Some types mature in 25 to 30 days, and they come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Look for more exotic types, such as watermelon radishes, to mix things up. Grow these inexpensive garden favorites from seed for snacking or to top salads.
Beets have a dark, earthy flavor that you can’t fully appreciate until you’ve grown them yourself (trust us on this one). Roasting brings out even more of their sweetness. Most kinds take about 50 to 60 days to mature from seed.
Psst: You can sauté up the greens, too!
Lettuce is one of the easiest vegetables to grow, and it comes in an amazing array of colors and types for every taste. Choose mesclun, a mix of lettuce types, or purchase several different types of seeds and plant together for a variety. Harvest the baby leaves when they’re a few inches long, which is usually in about 30 days.
Herbs aren’t exactly vegetables, but they’re essential to cooking and way cheaper to grow than buy in those tiny plastic packages at the supermarket. Opt for perennials such as sage, oregano, and thyme that will come back again next spring (though in mild climates, you can harvest herbs all year long). Transplants are a better choice for planting this time of year in most regions of the country.
Newer varieties are sweeter and mature in about 55 to 60 days, so there’s still plenty of time to grow them from seed in most parts of the country. Bonus: The greens are edible too—giving you more bang for your buck, no matter how limited your gardening space is—and they taste great when sautéed in garlic or baked in a frittata.
10. Swiss Chard
Swiss chard, a relative of beets, has big, bright green leaves that take about 60 days to mature. It’s a delicious alternative to spinach. It’s also an attractive plant with creamy white or neon-colored stems of red, yellow or pink. Interplant seeds with late-season annuals for a pretty and edible garden. It doesn’t get better than plants that do double-duty!