Are you feeling sad the gardening year is almost over? For me, I always feel a bit blue once the sun isn't as high in the sky as it used to be and the light gets its distinctive autumnal hue. It's super pretty but it's also kinda sad, especially when I look at my fall garden.
Some of the plants in the garden are past their best. Nothing seems as vibrant anymore and everything seems to be slowing down. You just know and feel it in your bones that the growing season is almost over.
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Still, there are plants to add to your fall vegetable garden
Take heart. It's not too late to grow a few extra plants and extend your fall vegetable harvest into the winter. These vegetables will all do well and give you a fall/winter harvest.
Go to a local, ideally organic, nursery that grows plug plants and see what's available! There might be local options that aren't covered here or things that simply work better in your area and fall garden.
This all applies to growing zones 8 and up. You could get away with this in zone 7, depending on your local environment. You would need to grow more things undercover more quickly.
Early September Veggies to Plant
Depending on where you live, you might still find it possible to grow from seed in your fall vegetable garden.
Vegetables to grow from seed in your fall garden
- Radishes. This is the absolute latest in the year you can grow radishes.
- Lettuce. All varieties that are quick to mature and can tolerate the cold will work well. Cut-and-come-again lettuces are a good option too.
- Bok choi or tatsoi or similar leafy vegetables. These greens that are classed as oriental vegetables can still be grown from seed if you get them in the ground now.
- Peas. Either you overwinter these for an early crop next Spring or, what we would recommend, if you've got plenty of dried peas, plant some and harvest the tops of the plants. They taste exactly like peas but they're a nice, fresh addition to salads and soups. They're very fancy too, restaurants will use them to spruce up dishes.
Fall Vegetables to Plant as Seedlings/Plug Plants, or Sets
- Kale: while you could still grow some plants from seed indoors and plant them out in your fall garden, they won't mature enough to harvest from this year. If you want to have a kale harvest, you will need to buy plugs. If they don't grow quickly enough, they will still give you leaves early next Spring! Kale is a very hardy plant so it can be outside in mild winter weather and they will be fine. Once the temperatures drop too low they will stop growing until it warms up a bit.
- Winter leek. Winter leeks can still be planted and enjoyed later in the year or next spring. They are frost hardy so don't need winter protection.
- Cabbages. Will be harvestable for early spring greens or later in spring for their hearts.
- Onions, garlic, shallots. Can all be planted now for harvest next spring.
October Vegetables to Plant in Your Fall Garden
From seed, all will need covering soon
- bok choi or tatsoi or similar leafy vegetables
As plug plants/sets
- winter leeks
- onions, garlic, shallots
November in Your Fall Garden
It's a bit late to plant out anything but make sure to cover any small plants you do have! You might want to buy or build a cold frame to extend your gardening season.
Lettuces, spinach, microgreens...these will all survive winter when kept undercover.
Do keep in mind that all plants under cover for winter won't grow much once temperatures and light levels drop.
Protecting your crops this way is more about being able to harvest one last time or have a much earlier harvest early next spring, well before any other vegetables would be available again.
Plant more than vegetables this time of year
This is the perfect time to plan out your garden and most of the fruit available for you to grow at home, depending on your growing zone.
- You might find strawberries available as bare-root plants. And that means exactly what you think it does. A bare-root plant comes without any soil or a pot. Just the plant and its root. You might start seeing these in September and October.
- Plant rhubarb now as well - even in colder gardening zones.
- Fruit trees (apples, pears...) and fruit shrubs (currants, raspberries...) can all be planted until next March or so.
Bare-root plants will need to be in the ground by March. They simply aren't available later because they need to be in their dormant state (still asleep) when planted to be able to start growing and not die.
Trees and shrubs in containers can be planted year-round but won't flower or give any fruit (unless there are pollinated flowers on the tree when you buy it) in the first year. If you've been able to get the plant in the ground in your fall garden, you might get a harvest that very first year!
What’s a growing zone and why should you know yours?
Growing zones or Plant Hardiness Maps are a way of knowing what will grow in your area and when. Some things are obvious, a banana outdoors near the Arctic Circle won’t survive.
Then again, did you know that you don’t need to live near the equator either? A sheltered spot in a zone 9, or a city in zones 7-8, will give you a harvest of actual bananas!
Knowing your growing zone allows you to expand what you think is possible to grow in your garden. It also means you will be able to tell how long your growing season is and allows you to plan when you will have to plant your vegetables.
Find your local zone (for the US) and for Europe. Zones are the same for the US and Europe so if something grows well in the US in zone 8, it should do well in zone 8 in Europe as well.
PS. what's a plug plant?
A plug plant is also called a seedling or a start. Plug plants are small plants that are grown in individual pots and sold to gardeners to grow on in their own gardens. You're buying yourself some time back. If you weren't able to sow your seeds at the right time and you're cutting it a bit fine, you simply buy a plug that someone else has grown for you and you can get growing.
What's a set and how are sets different from plugs?
A set is a small vegetable you've bought and you're growing it on. Wait, isn't that what a plug is? Yes! When we call something a 'set', we're only referring to onions, garlic, and shallots. They're tiny onions or small garlic cloves that a specialist grower has harvested and sells for you to grow into large ones. They're all relatively dry so they will store a while, they don't come in a pot of soil like a plug plant.
The end of summer weather doesn't necessarily mean the end of your garden. Keep working in your fall vegetable garden to extend your growing season and prepare for next year.
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