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Fall Gardening – How to Plant Late-Season Crops in Your Garden

Have you ever thought of fall gardening? You can easily extend your summer gardening by planting late-season crops. A fall harvest usually develops much sweeter flavors. Crops such as beets even retain deep colors when cooked. 

How much you can do in a fall garden is often influenced by your location. In regions where the winter climate is mild, you can usually cultivate crops throughout the year. Here is our guide on fall gardening and what crops to grow. 


Fall Gardening - How to Plant Late-Season Crops in Your Garden

Organizing Fall Gardening

Organizing Fall Gardening

Many gardeners think of late summer as a time to tidy away their tools but planning your fall crops means enjoying your gardening activities for longer.

A little organization should help you achieve amazing results. Growing late-season crops is easy, but you'll need to do some pre-season planning as early as mid-summer.

When to Start Planning Fall Crops

Although there are fluctuations regarding frosts, there is always an average time for when they first appear. You'll need this as a target date for your fall harvest.

Your late-season crops will need a certain number of weeks to mature. Count these back from when you usually expect frost, and you'll have the date when you should begin sowing seeds. On average, you need to begin your preparations during July. 

What do Fall Crops Need?

The amount of sunlight your vegetable plot receives is a vital factor. During fall, the sun sinks lower in the sky and the hours of daylight shorten. Your backyard probably has much less sunlight as the year progresses.

Some crops, such as Brussels sprouts, prefer light shade, but to be successful they need around six hours of sun each day to build up their nutrients.

By the end of summer, your garden is nearly exhausted. The nitrogen level will have been depleted by your vigorous summer crops. Fork over the soil to a depth of at least eighteen inches and work in generous heaps of well-rotted compost or seaweed.

If the space is already vacant, consider growing green manure, such as clover, vetch or phacelia during the late spring. It also helps restore the balance of the soil when following a crop rotation system. Then by mid-summer, the nitrogen content should improve your fall crops.

Do Fall Gardens Need Regular Fertilizing?

Fruit and vegetables are very hungry plants. It's often beneficial to apply a liquid feed around four weeks after the seedlings first appear. You can use the liquidized feed produced by the worms in your homemade wormery.

Towards the end of the fall, apply a generous mulch of leaf mould or compost around the crops to protect them from an unexpectedly early frost. Alternatively, place a polythene tunnel or cloche over the most tender autumn crops.

Advantages of Fall Vegetable Gardening

When to Start Planning Fall Crops

Everyone associates successful crop cultivation with the intense heat of summer. This may be true for sun-worshippers such as tomatoes, egg-plants and chili peppers.

However, the cooler, unpredictable weather patterns of the fall help you manage your autumn crops with ease. Low temperatures and increased rainfall make irrigation so much simpler.

Your crops should establish extensive roots in the moist, loose soil much faster than in the baked, compacted soil of summer. You won't need to water them quite so often, particularly with heavy rainfall.

Over-watering can damage the roots and quickly wash nutrients out of the soil. If you want to be highly accurate, install a small water gauge to indicate how wet the sub-soil might be.

Late-season crops usually avoid the excessive onslaught of aphids, carrot root fly and other major pests. Any surviving bugs will be planning on hiding away for the winter.

Songbirds are also on hand to make a meal of any visible insects. However, you may still find some invaders. Cabbage worms are the larvae of the cabbage white butterfly.

You'll often find them beneath the leaves. Simply pulling them off and transferring them to a patch of nettles is an effective way to deal with them.

Increased Flavor

The reduced temperatures and sunlight encourage the plants to store glucose in a bid to survive the oncoming winter. It increases the flavor of your crops providing a full, sweet taste.

It's well-known that Brussels sprouts have a much finer, crispy texture when they've been exposed to hard frost.

Read more: Vegetable Container Gardening for Beginners' Guide

Finding Space for Autumn Crops

Advantages of Fall Vegetable Gardening

One of the difficulties of growing late-season crops is finding enough space for them in your backyard. You need to start fall crops by the middle of summer.

Plants such as tomatoes, zucchini and beans will still be at the height of productivity and occupying a great deal of soil.

Once your beans are ready for picking, read our article on how to grow, care, and harvest green beans.

Clear away any spent plants, but if you are still short of space, don't despair. You can successfully grow fall crops in outdoor pots.

They'll need to have diameters of up to twenty-four inches. Sprouts are ideal for growing in pots, but they may need staking to prevent them from toppling over.

Varieties to try including Jade Cross and Long Island Improved. Pots are versatile. You can move them to any area of your garden where they can soak up maximum sunlight.

How Long Do Fall Crops Last?

In some instances, plants for a fall crop are quite long-lived. As the temperatures continue to decrease, the mature crops become almost suspended in time.

They tend not to develop seeds as in the summer and remain in peak condition for weeks. A fall harvest of cabbage or beets can keep you supplied with crisp, fresh vegetables throughout the winter.

Even crops with a fast growth rate such as lettuce, kale and spinach, perform well in cool temperatures. Harvesting fall crops can often be staggered over several weeks.

You should find it more manageable than having a large number of vegetables all at once.

Planting Perennial Crops During Fall

Planting Perennial Crops During Fall

Fall provides perfect conditions for establishing perennial crops such as herbs. Your garden could include thyme, oregano, chives and mint. The moist, cool conditions help the plants to establish healthy root systems over fall and winter. 

It's also an ideal opportunity to increase your stock of healthy, fall crops by taking cuttings. Woody plants, such as thyme and rosemary grow well from heel cuttings. 

Select a non-flowering shoot of about four inches in length and gently pull it away from the main stem. The cuttings can be placed directly outside in the light shade.

The moist soil helps them develop strong root systems. Tender herbs such as basil don't appreciate cold temperatures, but you can keep your kitchen supplied by taking cuttings.

They should begin to develop roots after sitting in a glass of water for two to three days. Plant them in a pot of high-quality compost and grow them on a sunny windowsill.

When to Start Growing Late-Season Crops

Whichever crops you choose to grow; you'll need to sow the seeds several weeks before the first frosts. If you are late getting started, you can purchase ready-germinated seedlings. They're an effortless way to begin your crops for a fall harvest.

Twelve Weeks Before Frost

If frost usually appears by the middle of October, you'll need to sow seeds as early as the middle of July. The timing gives them up to twelve weeks to develop into mature plants.

These fall crops include onions, celery, parsley, carrots and healthy cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.

Ten Weeks Before Frost

Leafy, green crops, such as kale, spinach and lettuce, require around two and a half months to be fully grown.

Eight Weeks Before Frost

The fastest-growing fall crops need hardly any time to mature. You can sow seeds of radish and beets. Lettuce can also be started this late, but you may need to cover them with a cloche to encourage germination.

Which Crops are Best for Fall Gardening?

Which Crops are Best for Fall Gardening

Providing you avoid tender crops with a high demand for sunshine, such as sweetcorn and tomatoes, your late-season vegetables should grow well.

Growing your autumn crops means you can try different varieties that are not usually found in the store.


You can plant small, immature onion bulbs or seeds. They like firm soil, so after digging in some well-rotted compost, walk over the surface a few times.

Plant your onions in furrows with the tips just poking out of the soil. Tasty varieties include red-skinned onion, Electric, and Senshyu Yellow.

When you have harvested some in mid-fall, replace them with Kentucky Hill or Greeley's. These are sometimes referred to as potato onions. They develop a mild, sweet flavor and survive all through winter.


You can look forward to the sweet flavors of tender broccoli heads during fall. Broccoli loves cool weather but is very particular about its soil.

It needs to be rich with organic matter, but well-drained. You'll also need to position it in the sunniest spot of your garden. As the buds begin to develop, check the weather forecast.

If an early frost is due, cover your broccoli to protect the heads. Varieties such as Marathon and Belstar usually perform well.

Brussels Sprouts

Sprouts develop a lovely crisp texture and sweet taste once they've been subjected to a frost or two. They are ideal for a late harvest in fall or at the beginning of winter.

Sprouts love a rich, slightly acidic soil, so incorporate lots of organic matter such as leaf mould. Like broccoli, they also appreciate a sunny spot.

The Catskill variety dates to 1941 when it was first grown in New York State. Diablo produces dark green sprouts from mid to late fall.


Beets are tastier in the fall. The seeds are sometimes slow to germinate, but a good tip is to soak them for a few hours before planting. They'll also need enriched soil that remains moist. 

Touchstone Gold is an unusual variety that has dark red skin, but inside, the flesh is golden yellow. Detroit Dark Red is a traditional variety that should be ready for a fall harvest in just fifty-six days.

Salad Crops

Lettuce can be grown and harvested in the fall. Favorite varieties include Buttercrunch and Nevada. Scallions can be grown as a perennial in states with a mild winter climate.

Varieties to plant for autumn include Southport White Bunching and Ishikura Improved. Varieties of fast-growing radishes include French Breakfast and Scarlet Globe.

Author Bio:

Ray Brosnan is the co-owner of Brosnan Property Solutions. Brosnans help homeowners achieve their garden needs all year around with the help of their experienced property maintenance professionals.

Wrapping Up Our Fall Gardening Guide

You can grow a surprisingly wide range of late-season crops, including salad vegetables, broccoli and spinach. Organizing your fall garden can be challenging, but if you are short of space, many crops can happily grow in large pots.

Fall crops are easy to grow. They suffer from fewer bugs and require less watering. Yet you'll be rewarded with late-season vegetables that are deliciously flavored. There you have it, everything you need to know about fall gardening. 

About the Author Mabel Vasquez

Mabel has enjoyed a long career as a horticulturist, working in nurseries and greenhouses for many years. Although she loves all plants, Mabel has developed a particular passion over the years for herb gardens and indoor plants. Mabel has since retired from her horticulture career and loves sharing her many years of experience with our audience here at Sumo Gardener.

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