One way to maximize your space is by putting in a fall garden. I’m all about growing as much food in as small of a space as possible.
Most homesteaders don’t have huge properties to use to grow food or start a farm, so I’m always looking to show others what you can do with a small space.
Instead of letting your garden go empty after cold-weather plants are spent, fall gardening allows you to use that space again for even more fresh, homegrown fruits and veggies!
Why Plant a Fall Garden?
Cold weather plants will be harvested or begin going to seed when it starts getting hot outside. Instead of letting that space stay empty, it makes more sense to find something to plant there.
That’s where a fall garden comes in. A fall garden doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just pick a few crops that will do well and pop them in.
Best Fall Garden Plants
There are two main things you need to look for when choosing plants for your fall garden.
They should thrive in cool weather and/or they should be quick growers (days to maturity ~ 60 days or less).
Here are some of the best plants for a fall garden:
Plant these 8-12 weeks before the first frost as long as the weather is cooling down (roughly 40-50 at night and 80 during the day).
Spinach can tolerate a bit colder and can be planted 6-8 weeks (a cold frame is helpful for late planting).
Kale could use a little extra growing time so I tend to start it inside.
- Pak/Bak Choi (Asian Greens)
- Swiss chard
Plants in the brassica family should be started inside about 12-14 weeks before the first frost.
Set them out 2-4 weeks after starting them or when the weather is cool enough.
- Brussels Sprouts
Root veggies grow fast and tolerate the cold well. Plant these 8-12 weeks before the first frost.
- Beets (great for fermenting over the winter)
If you live in a warmer climate (zone 5-6+) you should be able to get 2 crops of cucumbers and zucchini.
They are not cold hardy though, so in colder climates skip these.
Direct sow them 12-14 weeks before the first frost.
- Zucchini/Summer Squash
Direct sow these 10-12 weeks before the first frost.
- Green beans
Planning a Fall Garden
The above list is quite extensive, so if you’re a beginner, don’t try to plant all of them.
Just pick 2-4 crops that you would like to grow based on your family’s preferences and needs.
I recommend carrots, beets, lettuce, and swiss chard based on my experience, but choose what’s right for you.
When to Plant a Fall Garden?
A fall garden needs to be planted at least 8 weeks before the first frost but can be planted as early as 12-14 weeks before the first frost.
The above guidelines should give you a better idea of when to plant each crop.
But if you’re not sure if a plant will work for your fall garden, do this:
- Check when your earliest crops will be ready (check the seed packet for days to maturity — the above plants will likely be the same ones that are ready earliest in the spring)
- Find out how many weeks that is before your first frost.
- If it’s at least 8 weeks before your last frost you will know that where that plant is will be a potential spot for a fall garden plant.
Once you know the days to maturity and cold hardiness of your plants (again, the list above is a good place to start) you will know what to plant after your spring garden plants are spent.
Planting a Fall Garden
The actual planting of a fall garden is pretty simple. Wherever there is an open spot from where a cold-weather plant was removed, plant a fall garden plant.
If it’s not quite time to remove a cold-weather plant, just add your new seedling or seeds next to the pants that you are planning on removing soon.
Once the old plant is gone, the new one will have plenty of space to spread out.
More Gardening Resources
Are you looking for more resources on growing an abundant garden (with as little work as possible)? Check out these blog posts:
- 45 Best Permaculture Plants to Grow NOW
- Organic Gardening 101
- Permaculture Gardening for Beginners
- Composting 5 Ways
- How to Build Raised Beds
- Best Vegetables to Grow for Beginners
What is your favorite late season garden plant? Let me know in the comments!
Georgia collard greens and pumpkis are my favorite cold season vegetables. However, never had success with pumpkins most likely because I tried to transfer them and thosepickers are too sharp for that. So, unfortunately I didn’t have any yield.
I live in 7B on the Virginia Coast and would like to know what to do with a fall/winter garden because we go from 90º heat to frost in about 2 to 3 weeks in October. It really doesn’t cool down any until the very end of September. I currently am growing lettuces inside under grow lights and be ready to pop in beet, carrots, parsnip and radish seeds as soon as temps drop. I plant my garlic the first week of October (to harvest in late June). Once it cools, I will move the lettuces to my greenhouse, and transplant my kale outside.
Sounds like you are doing a lot of great things! A low tunnel can help because it will keep the frost off your plants through October and maybe November as well. Another option is to plant fall crops somewhere where it’s shady enough to keep the garden cool with just enough light for plant growth. An east facing side of the house maybe?