In this post, I’ll share with you 25 vegetables to plant in autumn. Fall is my favorite season to be in the garden! There are no vicious bugs, I need to water much less, and it’s much nicer to be outside in the cooler temperatures. Even though it’s not the peak of the growing season there are so many vegetables to grow and so much food can be produced this time of the year. Let me share with you some information about the autumn vegetable garden and what vegetables to plant in autumn.
Most homesteaders are exhausted by the end of summer.
We start seeds indoors early, then prepare the garden and transplant the seedlings, then we weed, trellis, chase the bugs, and when the harvest starts rolling in by the basketful it’s time for canning season. You probably find yourself in the kitchen for long hours canning tomato sauce or fermenting cucumbers… Not to mention the kids are out of school, there are a million activities, the goats are in milk and so on…
We reach the end of August with our tongue hanging out. Who has time or energy to even think about the fall garden?
In the past, I couldn’t handle another round of planting in August. So then I’d let things go, I’d enjoy a month of slowing down and cleaning up some of the summer mess but then in the middle of September, when the bugs are gone and it becomes so nice to hang outside in the cooler weather, I’d get frustrated that I didn’t have anything growing in the garden.
25 Vegetables to Plant in Autumn…
So I’ll plant some seeds and try to force them to grow quickly only to see the plants freeze to death when the first frost arrives a few short weeks or days before they start producing.
Or sometimes I’d decide that I’m going to protect them and start building all kinds of structures and tunnels over the vegetables and it would become this huge project that I didn’t plan and wasn’t supposed to do because there are other priorities in the fall (like deer hunting and tanning deer hides).
You can see that I’ve been there before…
I’ve learned to prevent all this by giving one last garden push at the end of July and in August. I plant the autumn vegetable garden and from there it’s easy sailing. The autumn garden is super easy to maintain!
Benefits of the Autumn Vegetable Garden…
Here in the south (I’m in Central NC, zone 7b), we can plant a spring garden, a summer garden, and a fall garden. Our growing season is very long; from late February and all the way to the middle of November when the first frost arrives.
Fall gardening is really so much easier than gardening during the summer or even the spring.
The hardest part about the fall garden is planting it because, as I said above, you are usually tired from taking care of the spring and summer garden and from canning season (that is not even done yet by that time!).
But once the plants and seeds are in the ground, there is really not that much to do besides watching the plants grow and occasionally caring for them.
There are almost no bugs. It seems like they got their tummy full from the summer garden and are on their way to somewhere else. They don’t really visit the fall garden.
The weeds slow waaaay down in the cool weather and if you have your garden covered with mulch you really don’t need to weed that much.
Watering is easy too. The cool weather helps keep the soil moist for a longer period and again if you have mulch on the ground than there is really not much watering to do.
The main work in the fall garden is starting seeds indoors if you do that yourself, planting seeds and transplants, and harvesting.
When to Plant the Autumn Vegetable Garden…
This, of course, will vary depending on your location. Here in the south, we have to have most plants or seeds in the ground by the middle of August and no later than the end of August.
Many of the vegetables we can grow in the fall like lettuce, kale, chard and so on, are better started indoors. In other words, in the middle of August, we better be planting starts in the garden instead of seeds and sometimes we are better leaving those tiny plants indoors a little longer until the weather cools down a bit.
Generally, you want to plant your fall garden when temperatures cooled down to the lower 80s upper 70s.
Here is the problem we run into here in the south…
Let’s take broccoli for example. It takes broccoli around three months to reach maturity. In my gardening zone, our first frost is usually around the middle of November so that means we need to start broccoli around the middle of July.
I know what you think… The middle of July to the middle of November is actually four months… Aren’t we supposed to start it in the middle of August?
I thought the same thing but in reality, you can’t count on the plant doing any kind of growing in November at all because the temperature is too low. Most plants slow down almost completely at the end of October. This means that you want to have your vegetables ready for harvest at the beginning of November. Since the weather is cold at that point, they can stay in the ground for a few weeks if you don’t want to pick them right away.
But broccoli and all the other vegetables we can grow in the fall (we will go over those in a minute) are cool-weather vegetables.
If you plant the seeds in July when the soil temperature is high, the seeds won’t germinate. By the time the soil cools down and the seeds germinate it’s too late, the plant will not reach maturity by November.
So to solve this problem we need to start the plants indoors in a place where we can control the temperature. We should start around the middle of July and keep them indoors in a cool room (Around 70F) and under lights until the conditions outside allow us to plant.
This also gives you a bit of room to play around the weather. If there is a wave of heat around the middle of August, you can keep the plants indoors and wait it out. They’ll keep growing in their pots whereas if they were outside they would probably be damaged by the heat.
For some of the autumn vegetables, if you can’t start your own seeds indoors in time, I recommend that you buy seedlings rather than plant seeds directly in the garden.
But this doesn’t work for all the vegetables you can plant in the autumn garden…
For example, carrot seeds should be planted right in the garden. Peas also should be planted right in the garden (although you might be able to start them indoors in toilet paper rolls and then transplant). With these kinds of seeds we plant anyway and then all we have to do is hope that the weather cooperates.
What Vegetables to Plant in the Autumn Garden…
There is a lot to grow in the autumn vegetable garden:
- Brussels Sprouts
- Some varieties of pumpkin
- Green onion
- Lettuce Mix
From 1 to 18 is a group of vegetables that you can start indoors.
But some of them, like beets and spinach, can be direct-seeded. What I like doing is starting as many seeds as I can indoors, this gives me better control on how things grow. If I don’t have enough room I’ll direct-seed things like lettuce or spinach because I know that I am ok with harvesting a small head of lettuce. So even if it doesn’t get the chance to grow huge I’ll still be able to enjoy it.
If you decide to start some of these plants indoors you should plant the seeds around the middle of July in trays under lights and transplanted somewhere around the middle or end of August to the garden.
If you live in a cooler climate those dates will change. Think about it like this… You want to start the plants indoors preferably 5 weeks before there is a break in the heat of the summer.
In other words, you want your plants to be ready for transplanting when the air temperature goes down to the lower 80s upper 70s.
From 20 to 24 is the group that prefers to not be transplanted. You will need to plant them in the garden at the end of summer for a fall harvest.
Cleaning Up The Summer Garden
I love selling some of my harvest at the farmer’s market. It’s a great way to mix up in the community a bit, meet some new people (electricians, plumbers, handyman, pond diggers, driveway builders… I meet them all at the farmer’s market and make sure to write their number down for future homestead projects!), and learn a ton from the older farmers who are always so eager and happy to share growing information with you.
And… I am usually able to cover my property taxes so my land is paying for itself. I love that!
But our small farmer’s market is pretty much done at the end of August so the autumn vegetable garden is just for us which means that I need to plant a little bit of everything.
Now my garden is a bit larger so this is how it goes… I plant my cool-weather early spring vegetables (which are the same vegetables that I listed above minus the garlic and leeks if I planted then in the fall) leaving room for summer vegetables.
In the middle of May, I plant my summer garden. At this time the spring garden is usually already producing.
At the end of June, it gets too hot for the spring vegetables and they are usually done so I pull them out. Things like kale and chard are left in the garden. They will not produce while temperatures are high but will come back to life in August sometime.
So now I have the beds that housed the spring garden open. Since I don’t need so much room for the fall garden (it’s just for us and not for the market, remember?), I will do a second planting of beans (which will produce all the way to October), cucumbers, and maybe zucchini.
Some of the beds will stay empty and will wait for fall. During this time, I can add compost if I want and it’s also a good idea to cover those beds with black plastic or mulch with dry leaves or straw so I don’t have to spend time weeding empty beds.
During the month of July, other plants will be done, like the zucchinis that I planted in May, some cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, butternut squash and so on… This will open a few more beds for the autumn vegetable garden.
Now we are at the end of July and there is enough room to plant the fall garden while still letting tomatoes and corn and cucumbers and such to finish producing.
I’ll usually take the month of August to add compost and mulch and clean things up a bit so everything is ready for planting.
Remember that I still have kale and chard in the garden from spring, I plant my pumpkins in June so they are ready in time for the holidays, and I’ve started some of my fall seeds indoors in July.
This all boils down to the middle or end of August (sometimes beginning of September if we have a hot August) when the garden is ready and everything is planted!
Most of my vegetables are harvested by Thanksgiving (more on this below). I then make sure to prepare my garden for winter and enjoy my break from gardening until February when everything starts again.
It might sound a bit complicated but when you do it year after year it becomes this beautiful cycle that really puts you in sync with nature and is so very productive (I have food in the garden from May to November).
A Word About Overwinter Crops…
Garlic, yellow onions, and leeks can be planted in the autumn vegetable garden to be harvested the next year.
Leave room for garlic. Here in my zone, we plant it in October and harvest in June/July. You can learn more about planting and growing garlic in this post.
Yellow onions and leeks can be planted in early spring but you can also plant them in the fall garden, mulch them heavily and let them overwinter in the garden (at least we can do this here in the South. If you live up north you might need to research this more). I like doing this because it seems to produce a better harvest and because it lessens the load of spring planting (which can be a lot of work especially if you are growing for the market).
Also, here in the South, I can leave some of my vegetables in the garden all winter long. Especially carrots but also beets and other root vegetables. I make sure to cover them with leaf or straw mulch and sometimes with a white agriculture fabric as well. The ground is cold and acts like a refrigerator. They don’t keep growing, they just stay stored in the ground and we can pick them as needed all winter long. This saves me room in the fridge.
A Word About Fall Cover Crops…
If you feel like planting a fall garden is too much for you, that’s fine! But there is still a lot you can do in order to improve your garden’s soil during the winter so it’s rich for your spring planting.
One thing you can do is plant cover crops. Crops like winter rye grass and such that would keep your soil covered and add nutrients and improve your soil structure.
Learn more about cover crops in this post.
Also, leaves are going to start falling all around us soon and they are an amazing free resource for the homesteader!
Simply collect fall leaves and pile them on your garden beds. You can also make leaf compost in a pile or leaf mold.
Season Extension Methods…
There are a few ways to preserve what you have grown in the fall even during the winter right in your garden.
Methods like hoop houses and cold frames or just piling up straw on your plants can all be used to keep your garden going through the winter.
I used to implement those methods but I no longer do that. I simply need the rest.
So I plan my garden to be put to bed around Thanksgiving. This is when I’ll harvest everything that is left, add compost (in my case cow manure most of the time), cover the garden with a thick layer of mulch and let it rest until the spring.
If you do want to learn more about season extension, Elliott Coleman has a great book called The Winter Harvest Handbook.
I can’t believe we will be transitioning to fall soon. It seems like the year just started a short minute ago. Soon it will be time to change gears and slow down a bit, but you know, there is still so much to do in the fall and winter around the homestead.
Cold season is hunting and building season around here and there are many projects to complete. But for an additional short couple of weeks, we will be concentrating on the garden so there is plenty of good food to harvest and eat all the way to Thanksgiving.
I hope you liked this information about vegetables to plant in autumn! If you’d like to learn more about the fall garden, my friend Rachel at Grow a Good Life has a great post titled 13 Quick Growing Vegetables For Your Fall Garden. Make sure to check it out here.
Are you planting a fall garden this year?