These Are the Best Types of Vegetables and Herbs to Plant This Fall
From carrots to cabbages, here's what vegetables gardeners say grow best in autumn.
It's the season for gardening, and there's no better time than now to start thinking about which fall vegetables to plant. "The weather in the fall is ideal for growing cool-season vegetables," explains Amy Enfield, a horticulturist at Bonnie Plants. "Cool-season vegetables will also hold longer in the garden in the fall, unlike in late spring when the onset of hot weather causes many of them to bolt to flowers."
However, depending on where in the country you live, fall weather can create a unique set of environmental obstacles. "The two main issues with fall plantings are the risk of losing your plants to frost and the loss of sunlight as the days become shorter," says Christopher Landercasper, director of farming operations for Sonoma's Best Hospitality Group. "If you live in colder areas of the country, where your first frost date is in September, you can still try to plant fall crops outside in mid-August and when the first frosts arrive you can use a cold frame or frost blanket to protect your plants and help 'extend the season' by a few weeks to get your plants to full maturity." While gardening might seem like a spring and summer affair, there are plenty of fall vegetables to plant. Ahead, experts share some of the best to sow during the season.
According to Enfield, fall is a great time to plant certain root vegetables, including beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, and garlic. "The warm soil helps the seeds sprout quickly, and the tubers develop as the soil temperatures begin to cool," she says. "Most root crops are fast-maturing, and a light frost helps turn the starch found in their roots into sugar making them sweeter."
If you aren't planting leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, kale, and Swiss chard in your fall garden, you're doing it all wrong. "The warm soil helps them establish quickly, but the cooler air temperatures and shorter days keep the plants from bolting to flower and becoming bitter," Enfield explains. For lettuce, Landercasper recommends planting a hardier variety, such as Rouge de Hiver, which translates to winter red in French, or Flashy Troutback.
Searching for a leafy green to plant in your fall garden with a little bit more oomph? Our experts say to consider planting cabbages. "Quick-maturing members of the brassica family, including cabbage and cauliflower, are ideal fall vegetables," Enfield says. "The key to success with these plants is getting them planted early enough to ensure a harvest but protecting them from any late summer spikes in temperature. Like other cool-season vegetables, a light frost will make them sweeter."
Landercasper says another popular vegetable to plant that fares well in fall is broccoli. He suggests planting multi-stalked varieties, such as Sante and Purple Sprouting, that produce several small flowering heads and can be harvested over many months. "Single head broccolis, like Calabrese and Belstar, produce one large flowering head and only harvest once," he says.
A few herbs can go a long way in a fall garden. "There are many herbs that prefer to grow in cooler weather and can be planted in fall," Enfield explains. "Fall is a great time to plant parsley, chives, and cilantro. In parts of the country with mild winters, it's also an opportune time for planting and establishing perennial herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme."