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What to Plant in Your Fall Vegetable Garden

What to Plant in Your Fall Vegetable Garden

I have to admit, I am uncomfortable with empty space in my garden. Inevitably, by late August, I've removed plants that are no longer producing (e.g., early tomato plants and zucchini that succumbed to squash vine borers). That empty space left behind...well, I hate it. It feels "wrong" not to have something growing there.

Thankfully, spring isn't the only time to start planting in the garden. Autumn is a great time to plant cool-season veggies. Even some vegetables planted for fall harvest will hopefully come back to life in spring, providing an early start to the garden.  

I still have root vegetables in the garden that I planted in spring: celery root (celeriac), beets, carrots and parsnips. I'll keep those in the ground as long as I need to. The cooler temperatures and even a frost can help make them sweeter as the colder temperatures advance the process of turning their starch into sugar.

My Fall Garden Bed

This year, I dedicated a 4" x 4" bed for most of my fall plantings. I had to make some room first....it's a little crowded out there. 

Step 1: Make some room for the bed

Step 1: Make some room for the bed

Step 2: Assemble the bed

Step 2: Assemble the bed

Step 3: Layer the bottom with cardboard to prevent grass/weeds from coming up through the bed.

Step 3: Layer the bottom with cardboard to prevent grass/weeds from coming up through the bed.

Step 4: Fill with soil and compost.

Step 4: Fill with soil and compost.

Step 5: Plan and plant. I use the Square Foot Gardening spacing, which tells me how many plants of each type will fit in a square foot space, but I don't follow the entire Square Foot Gardening method.

Step 5: Plan and plant. I use the Square Foot Gardening spacing, which tells me how many plants of each type will fit in a square foot space, but I don't follow the entire Square Foot Gardening method.

Step 6: I covered the bed with a chicken wire type of material to keep the squirrels from digging in there. Within a week, everything started coming in.

Step 6: I covered the bed with a chicken wire type of material to keep the squirrels from digging in there. Within a week, everything started coming in.

 I did my fall plantings in three phases:

  1. Early - Mid August: Two different kinds of beans in one of the garden beds and two different kinds of peas in containers. I even started two new zucchini plants at the very beginning of August. The squash vine borers are no longer a threat and the heat of summer helped the plants grow fairly quickly. They're looking good so far (no zucchini yet). I hope I'll get some late zucchini this year.
  2. Beginning of September: Fall-harvest garden bed plantings - turnips, spinach, 4 types of lettuce, Swiss chard. I'll cover these before the first frost with a hoop tunnel. I also planted basil from seed in wine boxes and got a few lettuce transplants from a local farm market to get an early start on the lettuce harvest.
  3. October: I'll be planting garlic for July harvest.

Although I only used Square Foot Gardening guidelines for how much to plant in each square foot space, there's much more to that method of growing that's worth considering. Square Foot Gardening is ideal for growing in small spaces for both beginner and advanced gardeners alike. It helps determine not only how much to plant, but how to prepare the soil,  how to design the space, and more. Refer to this great guide, Square Foot Gardening: The Ultimate "How To" Guide on the Loyal Gardener website for step-by-step instructions along with a video. I'll definitely be referring to this when I plan my garden for spring.

I plan to cover this new garden bed with hay on top of the soil and a hoop to protect it from the harsh elements of winter and help with moisture retention. We typically don't see frost until the 3rd or 4th week of October, but I'm hoping for a nice mild autumn/late first frost like we had last year...I have no idea if that will happen, but one can dream. 

Vegetables to Plant for Autumn

Generally, you want to count back 10-12 weeks from your expected first frost date as a guide for when to plant your seeds. However, we can experience warmer-than-normal seasons and I tend to be a little more flexible on this. I figure I don't have much to lose by trying, even if it's pushing the envelope on the date by a week or two. It's a good rule of thumb to follow, however. 

What are good vegetables to plant for fall?

Brassicas

This classification includes plants like broccoli, turnips, rutabaga, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and more. They enjoy the cooler temperatures as they mature, making them ideal for the fall. You can start them from seed in late August or early September. I've also seen many of these as transplants recently at many of the local garden centers, so it's not to late to plant!

Beet greens

Beet greens

Beets

Plant beets about 10 weeks before the expected first frost and be sure to leave room for them to grow in the soil. With any root vegetable, you need to give them room to expand. Plant the seeds deep and about 1-2 inches apart in rows about a foot apart. Beets can withstand frost and actually thrive on cooler temperatures.

Recipe Idea: Roasted Beet Sliders

Lettuce 

Lettuce plants prefer the cooler temperatures. The hot summer temperatures can quickly lead lettuce to bolt, giving it a shorter season. (You can help alleviate that by spacing out your plantings every couple of weeks throughout the summer months for a steady supply.) Lettuce doesn't need extensive sunlight and has a quick growth cycle (about 50-60 days). I did a combination of seed plantings and a few transplants from my local nursery.  

Dark Leafy Greens

Spinach, collards, Swiss chard, kale and other dark leafy greens are so nutritionally rich and versatile. They can be eaten raw, but unlike lettuce, they offer many ways to use them in cooking - soups, stews, steamed over rice, in quiches, and more.

Recipe Idea: Rustic Swiss Chard Tart

Carrots & Parsnips

These are really great options for all seasons. I plant these in spring for fall/winter harvest, but planting them now for continued harvest throughout the season is a delicious option. The great thing about these is that you can store them for a while and don't even have to pull them out of the ground until you're ready to eat them. Earlier this year, I pulled a nice harvest in February after the snow melted. Carrots and parsnips benefit from the cold temperatures, which help make them sweeter. 

Recipe Idea: Roasted Carrot & Parsnip Soup

Garlic

I plan to plant garlic in October for harvest next July. There are hardneck and softneck types of garlic. (I plan to try one of each.) There are many to try and the long season gives you something to look forward in mid-summer.

Recipe Idea: Roasted Parsnips with Garlic & Rosemary

Plant what you eat

There are many other vegetables that you can plant in the garden for fall, but the best rule of thumb is to grow what you like to consume. When deciding what to plant also consider the ability to store certain vegetables after picking them. 

Other great plantings for fall:

  • Beans
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Radishes
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mustard Greens

What's in my Fall Garden? 

Here's what's growing in The Wine Box Garden for fall:

  • Oregon Sugar Peas
  • Sugar Daddy Peas
  • Royal Burgundy Beans
  • Blue Lake 47 Green Beans
  • Lettuce:
    • Cherokee Summer Crisp 
    • Baby Oakleaf
    • Red Salad Bowl
    • Winter Density 
  • Beet Microgreens
  • Corvair Spinach
  • Swiss Chard (Yellow and Magenta)
  • Hakurei Turnips
  • Scarlet Queen Red Stem Turnips

Do you have a fall garden? What's growing? Do you have any successful fall gardening tips? Let me know in the comments.

Eggplant Meatballs

Eggplant Meatballs

Zucchini Fritters Two Ways

Zucchini Fritters Two Ways