33 Crops For The Best Fall Vegetable Garden

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As summer begins to set in, when the tomatoes start producing fruit and the zucchini starts loading down your counter tops, your mind may be in full summer garden mode. However, early and mid-summer is the optimal time to start planning and starting your best fall vegetable garden ever!

The fall garden is one of my personal favorites as it is often the a more relaxed and peaceful garden. The pest pressure is down, the temperatures begin to drop, and it becomes a nice period of winding down after a long and hot summer.

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There are many crops that thrive in the fall weather. However, knowing when these crops need to be started (either indoors or direct sown) can become a little tricky. Most plants need ample time to establish before the cooler temps hit, or even that first light frost. However, starting cool weather crops in the heat of the summer is not always easy. Below we dive in to the best ways to get those fall crops going in the heat of the summer, the best crops to grow in the fall, and when exactly each crop should be started for the BEST fall harvest ever!

best vegetables to plant for fall

Tips and Tricks for Starting Fall Crops in the Heat of Summer

Starting fall crops in the heat of summer can be challenging, but with a few strategic adjustments, you can ensure successful germination and healthy growth.

One effective method is to plant fall crops under and within tall summer crops like corn or tomatoes, which provide natural shade and protection from the intense summer sun. Consider utilizing trellis tunnels by getting your climbing plants established over the trellis, and then planting the cool crops on the inside of the trellis. I’ve found that this provides enough shade and cooler temps to get them through summer, and then once the summer crops get pulled out, they then have full sun to really get them producing in the fall!

Increasing the frequency of watering is also crucial to get fall crops going in the summer. The hot weather can quickly dry out the soil, making those fall crops much harder to get going. Mulching around your plants helps retain moisture and keep the soil temperature stable. Consider adding a layer of grass clippings or fine wood shavings to the top of the soil.

Consider starting your fall crops indoors or under full shade rather than in a greenhouse or other extremely hot spots. This provides a controlled environment for seedlings to establish before they face the outdoor heat. However, there are some crops that don’t like to have their roots disturbed and will need to be direct sown. This includes fall crops such as pumpkins and squash and all root vegetables (beets, carrots, ect). A comprehensive list of direct sow vs indoors can be found in our Seed Starting For Success guide!

Additionally, using row covers or shade cloth can protect seeds and seedlings from excessive sun and heat, ensuring they remain cool and moist enough to thrive. By combining these techniques, you can effectively manage the challenges of summer heat and set the stage for a bountiful fall harvest.

best fall vegetables to grow

33 of the Best Fall Vegetable Garden Crops

Parsnips

Start: Direct sow 16-18 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Very hardy, can tolerate hard frost.

Details: Parsnips require a long growing season, so it’s best to get them started well before the fall. They can remain in the ground even after the first frosts for an enhanced flavor.

Celery

Start: Start indoors 10-12 weeks before the first frost date and transplant outside 2-4 weeks before the first frost.

Cold Hardiness: Can tolerate light frost.

Details: Celery needs a long, cool growing period and can benefit from a light frost which enhances its sweetness.

For a productive fall garden, check out this epic Fall Garden Checklist!

Cabbage

Start: Start indoors 6-8 weeks before the first frost date and transplant outside 4-6 weeks before the first frost.

Cold Hardiness: Very hardy, can tolerate hard frost.

Details: Cabbage is very frost-tolerant and its flavor improves after exposure to light frosts.

Carrots

Start: Direct sow 10-12 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Hardy, can tolerate light frost.

Details: Carrots can be left in the ground even after frost, which helps improve their sweetness.

Leeks

Start: Start indoors 10-12 weeks before the first frost date and transplant outside 6-8 weeks before the first frost.

Cold Hardiness: Very hardy, can tolerate hard frost.

Details: Leeks are frost-resistant and their flavor improves with cold weather.

Brussels Sprouts

Start: Start indoors 14-16 weeks before the first frost date and transplant outside 10-12 weeks before the first frost.

Cold Hardiness: Very hardy, can tolerate hard frost.

Details: Brussels sprouts benefit from a long growing season and their flavor improves with frost exposure.

Winter Squash

Start: Direct sow or start indoors 14-16 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Not frost-tolerant.

Details: Winter squash needs a long growing season and should be harvested before the first frost.

Pumpkins

Start: Direct sow or start indoors 14-16 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Not frost-tolerant.

Details: Pumpkins should be harvested before the first frost to prevent damage.

Rutabaga

Start: Direct sow 10-12 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Hardy, can tolerate hard frost.

Details: Rutabagas improve in flavor after exposure to light frosts.

fall vegetable garden

Beets

Start: Direct sow 8-10 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Hardy, can tolerate light frost.

Details: Beets can be harvested after light frosts, which improve their sweetness.

Turnips

Start: Direct sow 8-10 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Hardy, can tolerate light frost.

Details: Turnips are another crop that benefits from a light frost for enhanced flavor.

Broccoli

Start: Start indoors 10-12 weeks before the first frost date and transplant outside 6-8 weeks before the first frost.

Cold Hardiness: Hardy, can tolerate light frost.

Details: Broccoli’s flavor improves with cooler temperatures and light frosts.

Cauliflower

Start: Start indoors 8-10 weeks before the first frost date and transplant outside 4-6 weeks before the first frost.

Cold Hardiness: Moderately hardy, can tolerate light frost.

Details: Cauliflower requires a cool growing period for the best quality heads.

fruit to plant in fall

Radicchio

Start: Start indoors 8-10 weeks before the first frost date and transplant outside 4-6 weeks before the first frost.

Cold Hardiness: Moderately hardy, can tolerate light frost.

Details: Radicchio’s flavor improves after exposure to light frosts.

Endive

Start: Direct sow 8-10 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Moderately hardy, can tolerate light frost.

Details: Endive grows best in cool weather and can withstand light frosts.

Kale

Start: Direct sow or start indoors 6-8 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Very hardy, can tolerate hard frost.

Details: Kale’s flavor improves with frost exposure, becoming sweeter.

Collards

Start: Direct sow or start indoors 6-8 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Very hardy, can tolerate hard frost.

Details: Collards are very frost-tolerant and their flavor is enhanced after frost.

vegetables to start in fall

Peas

Start: Direct sow 10-12 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Hardy, can tolerate light frost.

Details: Peas thrive in cooler weather and can handle light frosts.

Kohlrabi

Start: Direct sow or start indoors 6-8 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Hardy, can tolerate light frost.

Details: Kohlrabi grows best in cool temperatures and can withstand light frosts.

vegetables plant in october

Swiss Chard

Start: Direct sow or start indoors 8-10 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Moderately hardy, can tolerate light frost.

Details: Swiss chard is frost-tolerant and can be harvested well into the fall.

Scallions

Start: Direct sow 8-10 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Moderately hardy, can tolerate light frost.

Details: Scallions can be harvested even after light frosts.

Spinach

Start: Direct sow 6-8 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Very hardy, can tolerate hard frost.

Details: Spinach thrives in cooler weather and its flavor improves with frost.

Arugula

Start: Direct sow 4-6 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Hardy, can tolerate light frost.

Details: Arugula grows quickly and can be harvested after light frosts.

Mesclun Greens

Start: Direct sow 4-6 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Hardy, can tolerate light frost.

Details: Mesclun greens are quick-growing and can withstand light frosts.

good vegetables to plant in fall

Lettuce

Start: Direct sow 6-8 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Hardy, can tolerate light frost.

Details: Lettuce prefers cooler temperatures and can tolerate light frosts.

Mache

Start: Direct sow 8-10 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Very hardy, can tolerate hard frost.

Details: Mache is extremely cold-hardy and can be harvested even in freezing temperatures.

Mustards

Start: Direct sow 6-8 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Hardy, can tolerate light frost.

Details: Mustards grow quickly and can withstand light frosts.

Pak/Bak Choi (Asian Greens)

Start: Direct sow or start indoors 6-8 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Hardy, can tolerate light frost.

Details: Asian greens thrive in cool weather and can handle light frosts.

Garlic

Start: Plant cloves 6-8 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Very hardy, can tolerate hard frost.

Details: Garlic is typically planted in the fall and overwinters in the ground, to be harvested the following summer.

Cucumbers

Start: Direct sow or start indoors 10-12 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Not frost-tolerant.

Details: Cucumbers should be harvested before the first frost as they are very sensitive to cold.

fall gardens

Zucchini/Summer Squash

Start: Direct sow or start indoors 8-10 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Not frost-tolerant.

Details: Zucchini and summer squash need to be harvested before the first frost.

Green Beans

Start: Direct sow 8-10 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Not frost-tolerant.

Details: Green beans are sensitive to frost and should be harvested before the first frost.

Bunching Onions

Start: Direct sow 6-8 weeks before the first frost date.

Cold Hardiness: Moderately hardy, can tolerate light frost.

Details: Bunching onions can handle light frosts and can be harvested into late fall.

vegetables to plant in fall and winter

Protecting Crops from Light and Hard Frost

As fall approaches and temperatures start to dip, protecting your garden crops from frost becomes crucial to extend the growing season and ensure a bountiful harvest.

Row covers, such as blankets or low tunnels, are excellent for shielding plants from light frosts. These covers trap heat and create a microclimate around your crops, keeping them warmer than the surrounding air.

Cold frames are another effective method for protecting plants. These mini-greenhouses provide a controlled environment, capturing solar energy during the day and retaining heat overnight.

Mulching is also vital; a thick layer of mulch insulates the soil, keeping roots warm and reducing the risk of frost damage.

Watering your plants before a frost can surprisingly be beneficial, as moist soil retains heat better than dry soil, providing an additional buffer against the cold.

Lastly, if a hard frost is imminent, it’s wise to harvest tender crops early. Vegetables like cucumbers, zucchini, and beans are particularly vulnerable and should be collected before frost can damage them.

By employing these strategies, you can safeguard your garden and continue enjoying fresh produce well into the colder months.

Hey Beautiful! I’m Tara, garden enthusiasts, keeper of chickens, herbal homesteader and stay at home mom of 3 tiny humans and a sourdough starter named Ma. I love teaching others how to live a self-sufficient and sustainable life through homesteading, scratch cooking, and remembering to live barefoot, wild and free!

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