Imagine how deeply rewarding it must be to harvest fresh vegetables from your garden, all year round. You’re saving money on groceries, eating fresh vegetables and even reducing carbon demands on food supply. If this is your first venture into planting a fall vegetable garden, you might be surprised to learn that it requires planning very early on. Read on to learn how to plan, when to plant fall garden and what fall vegetables will give you the most success in your harvest.
When To Plant Your Fall And Winter Vegetable Garden
The planning stages are important when timing your fall and winter garden. That’s because there are a few challenges with growing vegetables through fall and winter, namely, the cold temperatures and lack of sunlight due to shorter days. These factors can slow down plant growth, even with mild temperatures in fall, because most plants need 10 hours of daylight. According to West Coast Seeds, it’s important to start planting in the summer and fall seasons to get the sunshine while it lasts! Vegetables planted during this time will grow to full size before November.
Generally, you’ll need much less space for your winter garden than for your summer crops, since winter vegetables are more compact than summer plants, like tomatoes.
- One bed of root crops (carrots, beets, and onions)
- One bed of cole crops, meaning plants that belong to the mustard (Brassica) family (such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and bok choy)
- Another bed of salad greens (lettuces, spinach)
Keep in mind, some of these veggies will need to start indoors before you move them outside into the garden. Winter sprouts that grow indoors first include broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. The goal is to grow them to seedlings indoors and then plant them outside in September.
Before we go deeper into what vegetables you should plant, here’s how to best protect your harvest during the winter and fall months.
How To Protect Your Fall And Winter Garden
The best way to protect your harvest from frost — as well as insects, birds and rain — is by placing a row cover over plants. You can create tunnel hoops along your garden bed and then drape the row cover over the top. Garden tunnel hoops are the skeleton pipe hoops that form a tunnel over the vegetable bed. They come in many different sizes to suit your garden bed, however, the row cover works best for the smaller and low tunnel sizes. Together, they protect your crops from many elements and diseases.
As Family, Food + Garden explains, row cover fabric can be either heavyweight for the cold months or lightweight fabric for plants that need shading during warmer months. Through the fall and winter, you’ll want to use heavy-weight row cover fabric to protect the plants from the frost and rain.
You can make your own hoop tunnels with plastic pvc pipes and then buy plastic sheeting or fabric for a row cover from a hardware store. With garden clips, you can secure the plastic or fabric onto the skeleton pipe hoops.
The Best Vegetables To Plant In Fall And Winter
The ideal crops for fall and winter gardening are ones that can still thrive despite the reduced daylight and colder temperatures. Now to choose the best vegetables that can handle the cooler months! We’ve gathered some examples from gardening experts who have indicated some of the best varieties:
1. Bok Choy
As a fall crop, bok choy is fairly simple as it grows well (but slowly) in cold weather. This hardy Chinese cabbage is a vegetable to be planted in August and can be ready to harvest in as little as 45 days. Plant short rows every two weeks and provide protection with a heavy row cover. From the end of summer to spring, you can harvest your bok choy.
Because beets are root vegetables, they should always be grown from seeds as you don’t want to disturb the root once it has begun growing. They should be sown later in summer and can be harvested all winter long in the garden. You can also grow them indoors as well.
Carrots are very tolerant of the cold. You can sow carrots in summer and harvest them approximately 60 days after planting.
It takes between 50 to 80 days to grow cauliflower. This crop should be planted around 10 to 12 weeks before the first frost, which can vary year-to-year. As previously mentioned, you can either grow the seeds indoors first and then move them outside, or sow them directly into soil outside.
5. Brussel Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts require around three to six month for the seeds to mature. Start growing them inside in a container and then replanting them outside after about three or four months. Ideally, you should start planting this vegetable during summer months.
With protection, all lettuces can be grown over winter, but varieties like Winter Density, Cimmaron, and Rouge d’Hiver are particularly hardy. Sow spinach during August and September to harvest throughout the fall and winter.
Sow spinach during August to harvest throughout the fall and winter. Spinach can be very delicate, but erecting the hoop tunnels and covering should allow it to flourish.
Now you’re ready to surprise your friends and family with dinners made from the most fresh, nutritious ingredients! Have you attempted to grow a fall or winter garden? Let us know on social media or in the comments below!