red leaf in lettuce

Whether you love summer or hate it, one thing’s for sure: It will end, and that end is only a couple of months away. Smart gardeners are already preparing for the change in seasons, by planning and planting fall crops. Autumn is a perfect time for a second round on your cool-weather plants: Greens, peas, carrots, beets… With good planning, you can enjoy garden-fresh food until the snow falls.

What to Plant

Realistically, you can plant anything you want, as long as it has time to mature before winter arrives. Most gardeners use fall plantings to replace the crops that started in spring and bolted when the weather heated up. This usually includes everything in the cabbage and broccoli families, leafy greens, lettuces, peas and root vegetables. Fall is also an excellent time for herbs, which you can dry and use through the winter.

Calculating Dates

Fall planting requires careful calculation. First, determine whether your crops are frost-resistant (greens and root vegetables) or frost-tender (squash, cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers). Frost-resistant plants will live through freezing nights, but frost-tender crops will die.

Next, check the Farmer’s Almanac for the average “first frost” date in the fall. Plan to harvest your frost-resistant crops on or around that date, and frost-tender crops a couple of weeks before. Now, subtract the number of days each crop needs to mature to find your planting dates. With herbs and frost-tender crops, you can plant as early as you like; with tender greens, wait as long as you can. A few hardy crops can even work with October planting dates.

Other Tips

  • Sow seeds deeper in the summer, as the soil tends to dry out more quickly along the surface.
  • Plant frost-tender crops together in a block, so you can turn the soil under when they’re finished.
  • Many herbs are perennials, meaning you don’t need to plant them each year. Consider designing an herb garden as part of your landscaping.

Want more? See 5 Tips for Fall Gardening.

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image: themissiah.