Want a Better Garden Next Year? Plant In The Fall!

Have you been disappointed with your garden this year?  Or perhaps it was great and you can’t wait to do it again.  Whichever scenario fits your garden, you may be thinking of how next year’s garden is going to be SO MUCH BETTER! 

One way to help improve next year’s garden is to plant some of it this fall.  Such crops as asparagus, garlic, leaks, onions, and strawberries are naturals for fall planting, because they take a long time to grow, and the extra months, even with only a few growing days, help them develop a good root system. 

Garlic is especially good for fall planting because as a cool season crop it thrives in the early spring, thus getting a substantial head-start on the growing season, and experiments have shown that your garlic yield may even be doubled by planting in the fall. 

All but onions can be planted two to four weeks before the first frost for harvest the following summer. Water them immediately after planting. 

Onions should be planted after the first frost.  Planting earlier is not advised because any top growth they may send up will be damaged by winter cold.  Watering is not advised for the same reason.

Other vegetable seeds that could be planted in the late fall include parsnips, lettuce, radishes, and spinach.  Care must be taken to plant into dry ground and late enough that the seeds do not sprout, however, or the hard winter frosts will kill them.  Obviously, no watering should be done in the fall on these crops.

Be sure to mark the beds well. Otherwise you may forget and till them up in the spring, wasting everything you’ve done. Your planted beds should be protected from the wind and have a good snow cover if possible, to prevent the seeds from blowing away, and to insulate the soil against sub-freezing temperatures.

Do not plant warm-season vegetables, such as beans, corn and tomatoes in the fall.  Any growth during a warm spell in the spring will only set them up to be killed by later frosts.

Remember to put Pre-Plant and Weekly Feed fertilizer mixes into your soil-beds before planting.  Use 32 ounces Pre-Plant and 16 ounces Weekly Feed for each 30’-long soil-bed, or 1 ounce and ½ ounce per running foot.

Before doing the work to prepare your beds and plant in the fall, please keep in mind that fall seeding is not 100% successful.  When they are dry, seeds are quite tolerant of freezing temperatures; however, at very low temperatures or when even slightly moist, your seeds may be killed. And even if your seeds do survive the winter, germinate, and emerge in spring, later frosts may damage or kill the tender seedlings.

Even with the problems stated, many gardeners still plant in the fall.  They often mature earlier crops, and sometimes even get larger yields.  If you are adventurous and anxious to get a head start on the spring growing season you might want to try planting some things this fall.

Please remember, however, our general recommendation for most crops is to get the early start in the spring by planting and growing seedlings in a seedling greenhouse, or a cold frame or hotbed.  You may also want to look into growing in the early spring using the “mini-greenhouses” described in other articles, on the Foundation’s website, and in Dr. Jacob Mittleider’s gardening books.

At the very least, asparagus, garlic, leaks, onions, and strawberries are always a good bet for fall planting, so if you enjoy eating any of them, now is a good time to put them into your garden.

Good fall gardening.

Recommendations for Fall Planting

Fall Planting – Fall Crops & Winter Storage

Sadly, too many of us are tired of our gardens by fall, often because weeds have taken over, or because we planted the wrong things and we can’t even get rid of them.

I suggest we take another look at it, because gardening in the fall can be very productive, and will give you fresh vegetables well into the winter, if they are grown and stored properly.

Much of a good fall garden should be carried over from the summer garden.  Squashes, while requiring warm weather to grow, can be stored for months, as can potatoes.  Eggplant, okra, peppers, and tomatoes will produce right up until frost kills them if you will continue feeding them.  And tomatoes can be brought into the garage or basement while still green, to extend the harvest another month (unless you cover them with a portable greenhouse as I show in the Photos section of the MittleiderMethod Yahoo Groups site).

Vegetables that can survive a light frost, if provided some protection, do best for growing in the cooler fall weather, and include the cabbage family, leafy greens, and root crops.  And some of these actually have their flavor improved by a touch or two of light frost!   The greens can also tolerate less direct sun, so the shorter days are less of a problem than for fruit producing crops.

Choose from the following, which can be seeded as late as September in some locations:  Beets, carrots, chard, endive, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, and turnips. 

The larger crops including broccoli (Waltham), Brussels sprouts (Jade Cross), cabbage (Danish Ball head), and cauliflower (Snow Crown) should be transplanted in August for fall harvesting in the temperate climates.

Many of the fall crops can be stored through the winter with little loss of taste or nutritional value, if you store them in moist sawdust at temperatures around 40 degrees f.

Here’s a good chart showing fall planting times for vegetables, depending on when your average first fall frost date is – by the Yankee Gardener website:


Seeding crops when the ground and the weather are still warm, as in August and early September, is often easier than spring planting, because the plants germinate and grow quickly in the warm conditions.  In addition, most of the cool-weather crops are more flavorful when harvested in the cooler weather of late September, October, and November.

Many of us could learn from our friends in the Southern United States about the benefits of eating more greens.  Nutritionally you probably can’t beat them.  They are high in vitamin A, K, folic acid, dietary fiver, antioxidants, carotenoid, riboflavin, and iron.

Spinach is common everywhere, and some of us enjoy red beets and their tops, but how many eat Swiss chard, which can be harvested all year?  Or turnip tops – which are also tasty and nutritious!  And I recommend the Southern greens, such as collards, kale, and mustards, which are different still, and will add variety to your diet.

Don’t give up your gardening yet, folks!  Now’s a great time to put the finishing touches on a great gardening year, and provide your family with fresh vegetables through the winter.

Planting 11 Crops on July 24, Salt Lake City, Utah

Many have asked when to plant crops for fall harvest, and what can be planted.  Obviously, it depends somewhat on where you live, but you may be surprised at how similar most growing situations are.

Find your average first frost date, and then count backwards, comparing maturity times for the crops you like to eat.  With less than 7 weeks until our average first frost date, I planted 11 different vegetables on July 24, 2004 – let’s see how they do!

I invite everyone to check in on the Photo’s section at the MittleiderMethodGardening group at YahooGroups.com, to watch the progress of radishes, peas, carrots, spinach, chard, onions, lettuce, cabbage, beans, corn, and beets.   You can join the free group on any page of the Foundation website.

I chose July 24 as the start date because of some local history that may be of interest.  In 1847, the Mormon pioneers first entered the Salt Lake valley, and immediately began plowing and planting, in hopes of harvesting enough to avoid starving during that first winter.  They managed to avoid starvation, but not by much.

Let’s see what proper watering, weeding, and feeding will produce!

P.S.  It’s now September, just 5 weeks after planting, and  radishes are being harvested – for over a week – peas are flowering, pole beans are 6 feet tall, and the one bed of cabbage plants have been transplanted into 8 beds and are doing well.

P.P.S.  Everything except the corn produced a viable crop in the garden planted July 24.  Carrots, onions, beets, and cabbage were small, but marginally worth the effort.  Probably most surprising was how well the pole beans did.  Because this is a warm weather crop I did not hope for anything edible, but we were able to pick for about 1 week before frost killed the vines.

I recommend anyone who is serious about producing a good fall crop start with transplants wherever possible, and get the planting of most things done early in july, unless your first frost date is later than Salt Lake City (October 10-15).