Vegetables You Can Plant for a Fall Harvest

Savvy gardeners know a thriving fall garden starts in summer. Start planting these cool-weather favorites now.

Growing Kale

Growing Kale

Kale and other greens are great fall vegetables that are tolerant of cold temperatures.

Photo by: Photo courtesy of Woodland Gardens Organic Farm

Photo courtesy of Woodland Gardens Organic Farm

With a final harvest of warm-weather produce and the addition of cool weather varieties, the fall vegetable garden is a great place!  For a few weeks it is a real cornucopia in your backyard. Then comes that first frost—it puts an end to the tender plants, but only enhances the best qualities of hardier veggies. 

Following is a list of some excellent choices to include in the fall harvest. To know when to plant, you’ll need to know your average first frost date, then count back from the number of days it takes for each crop to mature (check the back of the seed pack).

  1. Beets: Soaking the seeds overnight before sowing directly into the garden will promote quicker germination. 
  2. Beans: Choose from the full gamut of varieties for your favorite fall recipes or for dry storage beans. Just be sure to give the plants plenty of time for repeated production—the reduced beetle pressure in the fall can mean a bumper crop of fall beans.
  3. Broccoli can be sown directly into the garden or started indoors and transplanted. When the large head is harvested, don’t remove the plant.  Most varieties will offer abundant florets in the form of side shoots during cold weather.
  4. Brussels sprouts can take up to 100 days to produce and require plenty of space.  They will hold up to frost, but the planting should be timed so that all harvesting is complete before a hard freeze.
  5. Cauliflower is another cold-tolerant cabbage family option. To keep the heads white, tie large outer leaves over them or choose self-blanching varieties which grow their own “covers.”
  6. Celeriac: Also known as celery root, celeriac isn't much of a looker, but it is tasty. It takes a long time to grow and enjoys a soil high in organic matter and moisture. It’s worth the extra effort for a unique garden addition and great flavor.
  7. Collards, kale and mustards taste best after frost exposure. These nutrient rich greens are very cold-tolerant and useful raw or cooked. Harvesting the outer leaves only will allow plants to have an extended production period.
  8. Green onions can be direct sown in late summer and will live through winter if not harvested. “Bunching” types are best for an extended harvest and will not create bulbs. Leave some in the row to form colonies for harvest in the spring.
  9. Kohlrabi is a fast grower for the cool season. It takes 6 weeks to maturity. You can use the bulbous stem in a myriad of ways—shredded, diced, sliced or even stuffed.  The greens are also edible and very useful in many dishes.
  10. Lettuce is very useful for the cool season prior to frost. Shade and water your chosen area for a few days to cool the soil prior to a late summer planting for best results.
  11. Parsnip: Like other root veggies, parsnips fit in well with rustic fall foods like roasts and stews. Directly sow in the summer and plan on harvesting after frost, when the flavor improves. Leave them in the ground until you need them.
  12. Peas: Snap, snow or shelling peas can be sown for fall harvest.  Choose a short-season variety for guaranteed results.
  13. Pumpkins (and winter squash): Although they are warm-season crops, pumpkins can be sown during summer in time for an early fall harvest. If fully mature, the fruits will withstand frost in the field even if the vines die.
  14. Radishes are great solo or tossed into salads. Radishes are one of the quickest maturing crops at 4 weeks from seed to harvest.
  15. Turnips are easy to grow and delicious to eat. Leave them in the ground until needed or keep them in the refrigerator crisper for up to 6 weeks.
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