It’s pretty common for people to grow herbs and vegetables during the spring and summer. As the air gets crisp and frost sets in, most plants freeze and die. Many people don’t realize there are a variety of crops that can be planted in the fall. In fact, the cool weather even brings out the flavor in some of them.
The best way to know when to start your fall garden is to look up the average date of the first frost in your region. This can be found online or by asking any nursery. You’ll want to make sure that your fall crops are going to reach maturity by the time it starts to frost. The frost will kill most plants, although some will continue to mature until the cold reaches the low teens.
If the plants are started too early, the heat will cause the vegetables to “bolt,” or shoot up flower stalks and go to seed immediately. This makes the edible portions bitter.
Fall crops prefer weather that includes sunny daytimes with temperatures reaching the 70s and nights reaching 40s and 50s. If the weather is too warm when the plants need to begin to grow, start them inside as seedlings and keep them out of the direct sun during the hottest part of the day.
What wants to grow in your fall garden? Many of the same vegetables and herbs that grow well in the early spring. Broccoli, spinach, and lettuce do well. Kale can handle temperatures into the teens. The leaves even get a distinctive sweet taste when they are touched by frost. If the freeze is much harder, it is detrimental.
If you are concerned about a hard freeze, you can cover the plants with row or pot covers that can insulate the plants and keep the temperature about five degrees higher.
You don’t have to stop gardening once autumn comes around. Just look for plants that are hardy in your climate zone and follow the instructions on the seed packets or seedlings.