When people typically think of fall in a zone 5 garden, they usually think of the end of the gardening season. The time when we pull out plants and put the garden to bed.
However, the fall season need not be the end of the garden. Sure, summer veggies like tomatoes and cucumbers are done and harvested by this time, but there are at least 5 veggies that love the cooler temperatures.
In this post, I share 5 veggies that grow better in a fall garden, than in a summer one. I share four reasons for planting them in the fall, as well as what you would need to extend your harvest into the later part of the season.
If your growing area experiences frost during fall, this post is for you!
The five veggies
Although there are many veggies that grow well in cold temperatures, I have found real differences when growing these five veggies during the fall season.
The five veggies that I’m referring to are:
Although spinach, radishes, arugula, lettuce and Swiss chard grows well and quickly during the spring season, there are four reasons why these five veggies grow better during the fall.
- No pest damage: Slugs, snails, flea beetles, cabbage white butterflies, aphids and all matter of other pests are dormant during the fall, especially after a first frost. Their absence from the garden allows your vegetables to grow blemish and pest free. Who doesn’t want that?
- Flavour is sweet: Many of these veggies grow better in cold temperatures, than in the heat of summer. Summer heat will increase the spiciness of vegetables like radishes and arugula. Growing them in the cool temperatures of fall will produce milder vegetables. Radishes will be sweet, arugula will have a mild flavour, lettuce won’t be bitter.
- Leaf texture of greens is more delicate: Summer heat causes salad greens like lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach and arugula to have a thicker, tougher texture. Cool temperatures keep leaves tender and delicate, making for a more pleasant crunch and experience on the palate.
- Won’t bolt!: The lack of heat and shorter days delays bolting. Have you ever planted these veggies in the spring to find that they bolted when the weather suddenly changed from cool to hot? Bolting occurs when plants stop producing leaves and roots and begin producing flowers. Flowers mature to seeds, resulting in bolted plants.
This has happened to me many times over the years. Spinach doesn’t like heat and grows better when cold. Radishes go from tender to pithy and produce a central flower stem. Arugula sends out long, thin stems and develops yellow flowers. Lettuce too likes to flower quickly when the temperature outside becomes hot. Swiss chard is a bit more forgiving, but sudden temperature swings from cool to hot to cold again can trick the plant into thinking it is in its second year, sending up a flower stem.
- Row cover to keep end of summer pests off of newly emergent leaves
- Fleece cover or frost blanket to protect against frost damage. Although these greens are fairly hardy, a hard freeze may terminate their growth. A fleece cover or frost blanket will protect the crops and keep the frost from settling on their leaves.
- Plastic sheet or cover for additional protection, to protect against a hard freeze and extend the season even further into winter
- Stones, bricks or anything heavy to keep the cover from blowing away
- Optional: hoops to create a mini polytunnel
When to start your seeds/transplant out seedlings
Seedlings may be started indoors in early August, then transplanted to the garden by the end of August or first week of September. Factor in three weeks from seeding to transplanting out. This will give them a head start and allow for an earlier harvest.
If you’re running out of time, consider sowing directly. Be sure to do so by the first week of September, as the decreasing day length will slow down plant growth.
I tend to cover these beds with a row cover as soon as I plant, in order to protect against any lingering flea beetles or other pests. Once the first frost arrives, they will all disappear. However, if you don’t have a cover, feel free to grow without one, but the growing season won’t last as long.
These five veggies are my favourites to enjoy during the fall season. I have been growing them for many years and they never disappoint. So simple to grow, I literally just sow the seeds, lightly cover them with soil, water and wait. The fall rains usually give them enough moisture, so watering isn’t required. They do grow slower because of the decreasing day length and cooler temperatures, so I account for this extra time. If I want them sooner, I begin my seeds indoors and transplant seedlings to the garden. By doing so, I’m able to harvest about 1 month earlier.
These veggies are so easy to grow, that I basically sow them and forget them. Then when I’ve finished putting my gardens to bed for the winter, the fall greens are ready for harvest and so delicious!
Do you grow these five veggies in your fall garden? Will you give them a try?