Those bountiful summer harvests are long over... or so you thought. Just because the weather has turned cool doesn’t mean you can’t eat well. You can still get homegrown, nutritious veggies in the fall by planting a few varieties that love chilly temperatures.
The first frosts are coming up, so get going! You can check your area’s first frost date on the National Climatic Data Center to see if you can start planting with seeds, or if the first frost is too soon and you'll need transplants. (Chances are you'll need transplants.)
So what can you plant this season? These five cold-weather veggies do well in most areas. And for us gardeners who like less labor, these babies also grow well in containers. Double score!
Lettuces aren’t picky growers. They’ll shoot up in warm, spring weather or during the brisk temperatures of fall. They grow best when temperatures range between 45 and 75 degrees.
You can sow lettuce seeds four to eight weeks before your area’s first frost. After that, cold-tolerant lettuce varieties, such as butterhead and romaine, grow best. Keep in mind lettuces are lushes; they like their water. Make sure the soil stays moist by watering once every one to two days.
These babies were made for fall. Radishes actually grow best in cool weather. Get excited. These fast-growing plants are ready for you to chomp into in only one month!
Plant radishes at least eight weeks before the first fall frost in your area.
They grow best when temperatures range between 50 and 70 degrees. Keep their soil constantly moist; radishes like their environment cool and wet.
Crunchy, crinkly cabbage is so hardy it can withstand light frosts and freezes. Most of the areas in the U.S. can grow cabbage in spring and fall, but because it worships the cool weather, it’s considered a winter crop for Southern states.
Cabbage is kind of antisocial. It likes its space. Plant seeds in a large container that’s at least eight inches deep. They’re thirsty little plants, too, so make sure to water your cabbages regularly. If you don’t water them consistently their heads will split.
After the heads have formed, cabbages don’t need as much pampering. As they mature, simply cut back on watering to avoid cracking their heads.
Lucky for us fall growers, spinach loves to bask in cool weather, not the summer sun. You need to plant spinach five to seven weeks before your area’s first frost. If it’s too late to start seeds in your area, plant transplants. Place them in a container that’s at least 10 inches deep.
This tough leafy green is quite independent. It requires only minimal coddling from you to grow. Give spinach regular watering and maintenance and it'll be ready to harvest in four to six weeks.
Savoyed varieties grow especially well in cold weather. Their dark green leaves will crisp up in those chilly temperatures that have us a shiverin’.
If you’re already looking ahead to spring, you savvy gardener, you can also plant a winter crop of spinach that will show up in early spring. Just be sure to cover the seedlings during frigid weather.
Kale actually gets tastier in cool temperatures. No joke. It reacts to frost by increasing sugar production (the plant’s natural antifreeze), which makes the leaves taste sweeter.
Kale does well in temperatures as low as 20 degrees. Plant it in eight-inch deep containers. All it requires is regular watering and care.
Follow Kirsten on Twitter @kirsten_hudson