Summer is nearing its end, but that doesn’t mean gardening has to end as well. As you harvest the fruits (and veggies!) of your labor, this is the time to look forward to what’s ahead for your garden during the fall months. Leafy greens and root crops keep the growing season alive year-round.
The trick to fall gardening is to look for crops with a short growing cycle, or to consider hardy root plants that will mature underground during the winter for harvest in the spring. Here are five of the top cool-weather crops to add to your garden this fall.
Onions and Garlic
Onions are fairly easy to sow and don’t require much tending. They can withstand the cold of winter underground, producing greens that will be ready in the spring and bulbs to be harvested in the early summer. A favorite onion variety to plant in the fall is the “First Early.”
Garlic, also a bulb, is another low-maintenance crop to sow in the fall. Both onions and garlic have long growing seasons, with great rewards for gardeners who are better at thinking ahead than watering and weeding regularly.
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Arugula and Spinach
Leafy greens are popular with gardeners year-round, thanks to their quick growing cycle. Tender, delicate greens don’t prefer the intense heat of summer, so cooler seasons like spring and fall are ideal for growing them. Arugula matures in a short 40 days. To make sure you have enough time before the frost strikes, count backward 40 days from the frost date in your climate zone to find out the best time to plant arugula.
Spinach also does well in the fall, sprouting to maturity in only 45 days. You can keep your spinach crop “perpetual” by continuing to harvest it throughout the fall—it just keeps growing back! Perpetual spinach in the garden means a bottomless bowl of fresh salad on the table throughout the autumn season.
Carrots are another root crop that thrives in the cooler weather of fall. In fact, the shorter the days get, the sweeter the carrot’s flavor. Fall and winter carrots work best in warmer climates, but it’s still possible to plant and harvest carrots year-round in areas where the ground freezes— you just need to top them with a generous amount of mulch. Once you’ve tasted the sweetness of winter carrots, you may never go back to summer carrots again!
Radishes win the prize for fast growing cycles, reaching maturity in as little 30 days. They’re a cool-weather plant, well-adapted for both spring and autumn cultivation. The recognizable little red variety (Cherry Belle) is best grown in spring, so fall is the time to try out bigger, longer winter varieties such as Black Spanish and Daikon.
Neither a root nor a leafy green, broccoli does well in the autumn because it’s a hardy cool-weather vegetable (it germinates in soil at temperatures as low as 40°F) with a relatively fast growing cycle of around 80 days.