What vegetables should you plant now for a fall harvest?

There are many vegetables that thrive in the cooler days (and nights) of late summer and fall.

With August quickly waning and your garden stressed from the summer drought, you might not be thinking about planting—but now is actually a great time to plant new vegetables for a fall harvest.

As the loss of daylight continues, the soil remains warm, but it’s easier to get seeds to germinate. There are certain crops which love the cooler days and don’t need as much daylight as others.

Lettuce and other greens like kale and collards are especially well suited to growing in the fall. I have kept these greens going well into October and even through November with some protection from overnight freezes.

Lettuce seedlings will germinate in about a week and are frost tolerant
Lettuce seedlings will germinate in about a week, and are frost-tolerant. —Dave Epstein
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The first step in enjoying a fall harvest is growing your plants. You can either start them from seed or buy plants already growing. Many farmers markets will have vendors selling small seedlings. I have seen some beautiful lettuce plants over the past few weeks for sale.

If you want to start your seedlings from scratch, you can do it outside or start them indoors under a grow light. If you start them outside, a spot which has some afternoon shade seems to work best. I’ve started most of my seedlings outside under the cover of a patio umbrella:  I find the umbrella filters the harshest sun, but allows enough light for healthy plants.

Growing seedlings under an umbrella allows diffuse light, but keep the plants from burning in the hot sun
Growing seedlings under an umbrella allows diffuse light, but keep the plants from burning in the hot sun. —Dave Epstein

Seeds like to be kept evenly moist, but not wet to germinate. The key is to have enough moisture to signal the seed to start growing, but not so much moisture that the seeds don’t break their outer coating, or even rot. I usually lightly water my seedlings each morning and this seems to keep them moist enough throughout the day.

Beets a wonderful fall crop. Even if your beets don't get big you can harvest the greens
Beets are a wonderful fall crop. Even if your beets don’t get big you can harvest the greens. —Dave Epstein

Radishes are a quick growing root crop easily grown from now through September. The seeds will germinate in 2-4 days, and you can be harvesting radishes in less than a month.

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There are small types of turnip also ideal for fall planting. Turnips will also germinate quickly and you can harvest as they grow. I like to use them small, but also let them fully mature and become large enough for fall and winter storage. This is a great crop for Thanksgiving.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, carrots planted now will be ready in time for your family feast.  You can even protect them with some straw when the ground freezes, and then you can dig them up for Christmas!

Other edibles to plant now include beets and broccoli (get plants already started). Onions can be planted and you can use the greens, and spinach can be planted throughout the entire fall and can even be grown all winter in a cold frame.

I’ll answer your garden questions on Twitter @growingwsdom.

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