Hoo boy. It's already that time of the year. School's started, the kayaks and pool noodles are put away, and as your garden soil cools it's time to warm up our adult beverages. Right about now you might be planning to winterize your garden, but hold up: There are still some crops that are great for fall planting, and some will even help your soil prepare for spring.
So if you're like us, and you want to get one more round out of your garden this year, here's how to keep your hands dirty right up until winter!
Cool season vegetables
Remember how you scrambled to put in cool-season veggies, so they'd mature before summer heat kicked in? Fall is a great time to plant greens and cole crops. These quick-to-mature vegetables are ideal for late-season planting:
We recommend you try Late Dutch Flat cabbage this season. Known to produce well into December in many climates, this hardy variety grows huge 10" to 15" heads and brings delicious flavor and texture to salads and slaws. While we think Late Dutch Flat cabbage is best eaten fresh, it retains its flavor when cooked, too. This variety stores well in the fridge or root cellar!
Carrots love cooler temperatures, and like with many late-season veggies, their flavor improves with a light frost. Choose a rapidly-maturing variety like Red Core Chantenay carrots. This mildly sweet, chubby variety is a French heirloom, and the carrots will grow to about six inches long in loose, sandy soil.
Sometimes called turnip cabbage, kohlrabi is grown for its chonky round stem—though its leaves are also edible. This garden oddity matures in about 55 days, developing a cabbage-like flavor (and radish-like texture) to salads, roasted veggies, soups, and stir frys. Add some color to your cold-season garden with Purple Vienna kohlrabi. These will look smashing amid the first snowfall!
While best started indoors, kale holds its own against fall weather and matures in less than 60 days. Everyone knows how nutrient-dense kale is, but did you know that Red Russian kale turns purple in the cold? Sounds like we're going with a color theme here...
If you get them going before temperatures fall below 45°F, you can harvest baby Tatsoi mustard greens within 20 days. If you're in a milder winter climate where temperatures stay above the threshold, you'll have fully-grown plants in about 45 to 55 days. Tatsoi mustard greens are sweet with a mustardy taste, and they're excellent in salads or sauteed.
If you like to snack on veggies right out of the garden, definitely add Sugar Sprint peas to your list. Peas are one of the earliest crops in the spring, but if you didn't have your act together at the end of last winter, you can seek redemption this fall. This sweet, crisp snap variety matures in about 60 days.
Easily one of the fastest-growing root vegetables, radishes are perfect for late-season gardens. All varieties are great candidates, but French Breakfast radishes are among the fastest-maturing, clocking in at around 20 days.
You can choose any variety of spinach for your fall garden and have a successful post-season harvest, but Bloomsdale Long Standing spinach is our current choice. It's a delicious variety that performs far better in the fall and early winter than it does in spring, providing tender, pick-as-you-need-them greens.
Have you tried mashed turnips yet? This dish is a pretty big deal these days, either solo or blended with potatoes. Purple Top Globe turnips mature in 55 days, and you can leave 'em in the ground until you need 'em. Their greens aren't bad sauteed or in salads, either!
But wait... there's more!
Be sure to check out this popular blog post, "Our Tips for Planting a Late-Season Vegetable Garden" to learn more about fall garden care, more of our favorite varieties, and how temperature affects veggie flavor.
Soil-building cover crops for fall
What do you do with those garden beds that won't be pulling triple duty this fall? You can mulch them to preserve topsoil and suppress early spring weeds, or you can plant cover crops that will do both, and add nutrients and organic matter to your soil.
Buckwheat matures in about 10 weeks when planted in late-summer or early fall, and produces an abundance of pretty white flowers. Buckwheat will grow low to the ground with minimal water, but with extra moisture and fall temps can reach about 2' in height. If you don't have a tiller, buckwheat is easy to pull out of the ground; just leave it where it lies. The tender stems will quickly decompose over winter for easy incorporation into the topsoil.
Michigan State University recommends mustard not only to suppress weeds and shelter the soil from the elements, but for its properties in knocking down soil-borne pathogens. Get in the ground now, so it will have time to sprout and grow before hard frosts kill it back... as with buckwheat, you can leave it until spring before tilling it under.
Want a nitrogen-fixing legume with deep, soil-massaging roots? This winter-tolerant vetch variety is best started when it's still warm, and in temperate climates it will grow (albeit slowly) through winter. Be sure to mow it down in spring before it forms seed heads, or let it reseed if you're planting in those neglected corners of the garden you're trying to hide from your HOA. Hairy vetch is an attractive plant when left to its own devices.
Want to know more about cover crops for your home garden? Get the dirt with this Seed Needs blog post! We've also got some great info to help you extend your season in both late fall and in early spring.
Keep your garden growing with Seed Needs
You still have time to order seeds for late-season planting! We offer fast shipping, and our fresh, non-GMO seeds' high germination rates won't waste precious time this fall.
And as always, if our gardening blog doesn't answer your questions, contact us! We're here to help.