Fall gardens are not just about Mums! As more of us are growing some of our own food, planting cool weather crops for a fall harvest is becoming quite popular. Areas with more mild climates are especially fortunate as the extended growing season makes it possible to reap the bounty well into the fall and even early winter. You might be surprised at the hardiness of some herbs and vegetables.
Planning for success involves selecting a location that receives as much sun as possible in the fall and winter, is not prone to early frost, such as the bottom of a hill, and is protected from the harsher winds of fall and winter.
Sowing the seeds would need to be done early enough for plants to reach maturity before the hard frost and cold weather sets in. Just as in the spring, you may have to watch the soil temperature if direct seeding into your garden, as seeds may not germinate if the soil temperature is too high. There are a few work arounds if the hot summer is lasting well into August or September. Many folks sow the seeds indoors, in a more controlled climate, just as they do in the spring. Then, once the temperatures start to lower you will transplant out into the garden. Another trick would be to utilize the shade created by some of the taller plants in your garden that will be removed as fall approaches.
One thing to remember is that as the days grow shorter the plants will grow slower so may not mature as quickly as noted on the seed package. So, to extend the season even longer you will want to mulch the area around the plants to hold in moisture and warmth. Plus, we recommend having a plan in place for unexpected frosts and cold snaps. Using frost blankets such as these GCI Frost/Germination Blankets are perfect for early unexpected frost. Those of you who are real serious about growing later into the winter season might consider row crop covers on frames, cloches, or cold frame boxes. Here is a link to the USDA First and Last Frost Dates across the US.
This is just a few of the most popular cool weather vegetables often grown in backyard gardens.
Hardy vegetables are able to withstand hard frosts or temperatures down to the mid twenties. They even taste better when grown in cooler temperatures.
Semi-Hardy vegetables will tolerate light frosts and temperatures between 29° - 32° F.