Keeping a fall garden can seem a bit intimidating—especially if you live in a cooler area to begin with—but if you pick the right vegetables (and use handy gardening supplies like cloches and cold frames) growing fall vegetables can be just as fun and fruitful as summer gardening. Here are three hearty, cold-weather vegetables sure to make your fall planting is a success.
3 Fall Garden Favorites
No fall garden would be complete without an ample crop of kale (Brassia oleracea). Loaded with vitamins K, A and C, kale is probably one of the healthiest fall vegetables you can plant in a winter garden. Cold hardy and delicious, kale is a wonderful green-leafy vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked, and comes in a delightful array of cultivars. Peek at a good seed catalog and you’re likely to find a dozen delicious choices, from brilliant purple Chidori and Redbor varieties to crisp and curly wild garden kales—all of which are wonderfully productive and easy to grow in a good fall garden.
Kale is particularly well-suited for fall planting and winter gardening because a well-timed light frost brings out the sweetness in this delicious winter plant. Remember to:
- Sow seeds in late summer for a fall crop, and expect 5 to 17 days to germination.
- Prune away outer leaves when they are about 8 inches long.
- Don’t pick inner leaves (you could damage the growing point if you do).
The common carrot (Daucus carota) is a woefully under-appreciated fall garden winner. Nutritious (they’re loaded with vitamin K and skin-saving antioxidants!) and versatile (use them in soups, juices, salads, side dishes and more), most people don’t realize that carrots come in a wonderful variety of colorful, easy-to-grow cultivars. And, perfect for the urban garden short on space (or tall on space if you’re a vertical gardener!), short carrot cultivars (like the Atlas and Autumn King) are great choices for fall gardening in the city.
- Make sure your soil is free of rocks and pebbles. Little obstructions like these can make your carrots in grow in weird, twisted shapes.
- Carrots will grow in heavy soils but they really do best in light, sandy soil.
- If you’re worried about pests like carrot flies, plant near other fall vegetables like garlic and winter onions.
If you really want to maximize your fall garden’s potential and productivity, trying growing a few varieties of onion (Allium cepa). A prolific producer, onions are a favorite for winter gardening and cooking. And, having been grown for over 5,000 years, there are over a hundred standard, heirloom and organic varieties available. And don’t forget that onions are actually quite healthy—like garlic, these fall garden dynamos are rich in the sulfur-containing compounds that seem to have cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory benefits.
With so many varieties available, it can be hard to choose just one or two cultivars to grow in a fall garden, especially if your space is limited. Instead of just picking up a packet at your local garden store, I highly recommend perusing a good seed catalog to get glimpse at the varieties available, then choose a few that you really want to commit your precious fall garden space to. Plus, remember to:
- Plant them in a sunny location with well-drained soil, and expect 6-16 days to germination.
- Water well and regularly to support their shallow root systems and produce mild-tasting bulbs.
- Experiment with winter-hardy varieties like the Yellow Multiplier.