At the end of summer (or really in the middle of summer) you should start thinking about your fall planting plans. Depending on your zone and growing season you may have a lot you can still grow into the September, October and November months in North America.
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When to start planting for fall?
This really depends on your USDA hardiness zones. These provide the first and last frost dates for areas in the United States. However, this is CRITICAL, if you live in the hot, dry or extra wet south you need to reconsider. Mostly you will count backwards from your first frost date on each of the foods you want to grow.
However, if you live in an area that regularly reaches 95F or above then many of your seeds will have trouble sprouting in the extreme heat. You may need to start your cold weather crops indoors in seed starter trays in order to get germination. For example, I start all my brassicas indoors while I wait for cooler weather to settle in.
I live in Louisiana, Zone 8B and our local land grant university puts out a wonderful planting guide that includes fall planting dates for my area. You can find it here.
- Start you fall crops no later than August 15th
- Try to start fall plants indoors in July
- The first frost date for zone 3 is September 15th
- You will need row covers, a green house or cloches to help extend your season
- Transplants should be start indoors before your last frost
- Plant only the most cold-hardy of vegetables and herbs
- There is definitely time for a fall garden
- In zone 8 there is usually a dead time where it is too hot to plant outdoors
- Start seeds indoors to help with fall transplants and wait until outdoor highs dip below 90 or 95
- You can plant many things as late as the end of September
- Check days to maturity
- Some crops can be stored in the ground over winter
- Zone 7 has a first frost date around the end of October
What to plant for the fall?
Many different plants really enjoy the cooler weather of the fall. If you live in zones lower than 6, you will need to have some sort of protection such as a hoop tunnel or cloches or good layer of mulch to weather some of the earliest light frosts.
Below are a list of plants that do great in the fall:
- Green beans
Fall planting in warm zones
In USDA hardiness zones of 7 and above there are further crops and considerations. Since your above freezing growing season is so long you can also grow other longer grow time crops. Below is a list of fall crops you can grow in the longer season zones:
- Fall tomatoes
- Summer squash
- Swiss Chard
- Bok choy
- Mustard greens
Harvesting fall crops
Of all the crops listed above, some can weather through cold spells and even get sweeter with a mild frost. However, some cannot make it and will die and ruin the crop if it is cold enough for ice. Most crops need to be harvested before the first frost. Keep a close on the temperatures. As soon as you see any temperature drop below 32F you may want to pull the remaining crop for several plants.
Plants that cannot handle any amount of frost are the “warm” season ones and include all squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, potatoes. Crops grown for greens can usually handle a little but not much as the frost will kill the inner cells of the plant. This includes spinach, mustard greens, collards, swiss chard. However, some of those are still very hardy such as kale and all the brassicas.
Finally, there are some that are planted in the fall so that they pop up in the spring. These include all the alliums (onions, leeks, garlic and bunching onions). If you live in more northern zones fall plantings of potatoes, cabbage, carrots and beets will hibernate in the winter and come up in the early spring. Just protect the area with some mulch such as straw.
What do you like to go grow in the fall? Let me know in the comments!
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