If you want to get the most out of your gardening season, you should plan on planting for a fall harvest. There are many cool weather crops that can be sown from seed in summer for a bountiful autumn crop.
In fact, some crops actually perform best in the fall climate. There is a lower chance of the plants bolting due to high temperatures (I’m looking at you, broccoli…). So, in this article, I’ll share an easy fall planting guide for a variety of garden vegetables.
Fall Planting Chart
If you want a quick tool to simplify fall planting, use our interactive planting chart. We’ve taken the guesswork out so you can know exactly when to plant your seeds based on your specific climate.
The chart below uses your average first frost date to calculate planting times for a variety of crops. Simply find your average first frost date, type it into the box (format “mm/dd”, ex. 10/15), and click “calculate dates.”
The table will populate with the recommended seed planting dates for all of the listed crops.
Enter your average first fall frost date:
|Crop:||Plant seeds by:|
*Transplant crop (see below).
Notes about the fall planting chart:
- "Plant seeds by" dates indicate when you should sow seeds for fall harvest, NOT when to transplant.
- If a crop has an asterisk*, it is a "transplant crop." This means it can be planted in small cells or containers and transplanted out into the garden after about 4 weeks of growth.
- If a crop does not have an asterisk, it should be direct sown, or planted from seed directly in your garden.
- Most of the crops included in this chart are frost-tolerant. So, if the planting day has passed, you may still be able to grow it and get a harvest - give it a shot!
Transplanting vs Direct Sowing
Some crops are better planted directly in the soil from seed. Others are better sown in containers and transplanted into the garden after a few weeks of growth.
- Transplant crops are typically longer-season crops that don't mind a bit of root disturbance. By planting them in small trays, you allow your other crops in the garden to finish producing before transplanting the new seedlings in. Cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower are commonly transplanted.
- Direct sowing is when you plant seeds directly in the soil where they will grow to maturity. Lettuce, beets, carrots, peas, and spinach are all typically direct sown, as they mature more quickly and do not transplant well.
You can technically direct sow any of the crops listed. However, I recommend transplanting whenever possible to help the plants establish more quickly and avoid pest damage on vulnerable seedlings.
And most importantly, the first few weeks of any crop's life are slow. These tiny plants waste valuable space in the garden that could otherwise be producing. So, transplanting helps make your garden more productive overall.
Some crops can be sown either way. For example, I like to transplant some of our lettuce plants. It's nice being able to "plug in" the seedlings whenever a spot opens up in the garden (and lettuce doesn't seem to mind the transfer).
Keep an open mind about whether to direct sow or transplant your plants. If you have rough soil, it may be best to transplant more of your plants (tiny seeds may struggle to germinate). If your garden is well protected with fluffy soil, direct sowing may work for more of your crops!
Which Fall Vegetables To Plant
Not all veggies are suitable for planting for fall harvest. Tomatoes, peppers, melons, cucumbers and many others need to be planted in spring. However, most cool-weather loving crops are perfect for fall harvest.
Tip: In fall, plants tend to grow a bit more slowly than in spring and summer. This is caused by the shorter days as the summer progresses, providing the plants with less light.
Because of the slower growth in fall, we recommend adding 2 weeks to the "days to harvest" period indicated on your seed packet. This will give a more realistic idea of when your plants will be ready.
- Brassicas. Broccoli, kale, bok choi, and cabbages are all excellent choices for fall harvest. These are some of the first to be planted (aside from bok choi) due to their relatively long growth time.
- Root vegetables. Carrots, radishes, beets, turnip, and parsnips are perfect for fall harvest. These crops actually become more flavorful after experiencing a frost. So let them sit in the soil for a few weeks into the winter before harvesting for the sweetest flavor!
- Leafy greens. Lettuces, spinach, and arugula all love to be in the chilly fall weather. You'll be shocked how productive your greens are while your summer crops are wilting from the cold.
- Alliums. Leeks and some types of onions can be planted for fall harvest. While many thrive in the summer heat, they can also grow well into the chilly fall months. Green onions are a great choice that can be succession planted all season long.
- Hardy herbs. If you want to plant some hardy perennial herbs, you can get them started mid-season, too! Sage, thyme, chives, and many others will all overwinter in most winter climates, coming back again in late winter.
This is a great place to start, but any crop that is either frost-tolerant, or short-season can likely be planted for a fall harvest! Take a look at your seed packets to discover which plants will perform best in your autumn garden.
What about garlic?
Garlic is planted in fall, however it is not harvested until the following summer. It is a great idea to save a spot in the garden for your fall-planted garlic. Alternatively, you can interplant garlic cloves in your garden beds at random, as they make great companion plants for other veggies.
Fall Planting Tips and Tricks
Gardening for a fall harvest is less common than spring and summer gardening. This makes it a bit more challenging to find good info about the practice. So, to help you get the most out of your fall garden, use these tips:
- Plan it out. In order to plant for fall harvest, you need space in your garden! So, think about which crops will be finished in time to plant your next round of crops. For example, garlic is harvested in mid summer, making space for cabbages, broccoli, beets, and more. Peppers and tomatoes remain in place all season long!
- Amend soil before planting. After clearing out a crop to make room for your fall harvest plants, the soil may need amending. Nitrogen is the most likely to be deficient, so consider adding a layer of compost, all purpose fertilizer, or even just compost tea to replenish nutrients.
- Succession sow. Many crops should be planted regularly, every 1-2 weeks, to get a continual harvest. If you eat a lot of greens, then you can plant lettuce and spinach every other week. This way, you'll be harvesting full-sized plants on a regular basis. If you plant all your lettuce on the same day, then you'll end up with a huge harvest, all at once, and some of it may go to waste!
- Use covering. If you want to extend your season and plant fall-harvested crops even later, use covering. Greenhouse plastic or floating row cover can help insulate your plants from cold weather, allowing for a later harvest.
I hope this article helps you plan out your fall planting. There is so much room to experiment and grow your own way, so feel free to share your ideas in the comments below!