Believe it or not, the growing season doesn’t end with summer. Late season planting is a common and successful option for growing that results in delicious fall (and even winter harvests).
Many people think that, once August is over, their chance for a thriving fall garden is over. In reality, you can plant easily throughout September and October and even into November (a fresh Thanksgiving harvest is a real possibility!) In fact, certain crops actually prefer later planting times /dates — the cool weather will produce an even more tender and tasty harvest than spring could.
Late season planting requires just a little extra knowledge and attention. It’s all about knowing what to plant and how to prepare your garden for it.
Here are 9 tips for late season planting. If you follow these tips, you’ll have a successful growing season that could even last throughout winter.
1. Find Your First Frost Date
Before you can think about what you’re growing, you need to find your first expected frost date. The first frost is the biggest obstacle for most garden’s survival. The average date is different for each area, so head to the National Weather Service’s website to discover your specific first frost date.
2. Look Up Days to Maturity
Days to Maturity is the days it will take for a specific seed to mature entirely aka Maturity Date.
You can find this information online or on the back of your seed packet. The time to mature varies for every single crop — not all varieties of broccoli are the same.
So if you’re dying to grow broccoli, be sure to check out each variety to see which has the shortest days to maturity.
Once you know this, count backward from the first freeze date. Is the time to first freeze longer or equal than days to maturity? If so, you’re good to grow. If not, you probably need to find a different crop.
Pro Tip: Some leafy greens (like kale, swiss chard, and mustard greens) can be harvested before they are fully mature. These harvests are called microgreens and are particularly tender and tasty. In this case, the days to maturity will not reflect the time to actual harvest so keep that in mind before you rule these veggies out.
3. Replenish Your Soil
Many of us are reusing our garden soil from your spring garden. If so, be sure to replenish your soil with soil amendments. The soil is the source of all plant nutrients for your plant.
Improve soil structure and add nutrients to the soil with compost. Compost returns organic matter to the soil in a usable form. Be sure to also fertilize regularly throughout your grow using organic fertilizer — this is your plant’s food!
4. Grow in a Container
Container gardens are prime fall growing options. Container growing offers you a lot of control over the experience your plants have. This is very helpful for late-season planting when the weather can be a little unpredictable and the schedule a little tight.
We suggest putting your container garden on wheels, so you can roll it around. If you need to roll the garden around to follow the sun throughout the days, you can. If you need to move your garden indoors because of a surprise early frost, you can! Your garden will continue to survive and thrive despite inclement weather if it’s a container garden.
Gardenuity container garden kits are the most reliable way to grow, including prime soil, customized nutrients, seeds, a grow bag, and accessible Grow Pro growing assistance.
Plus, you choose using Gardenuity match, which means you are only sold what you can successfully grow when and where you are right now.
5. Pick Your Crop
Late season planting can only be successful if you choose the right crop. Depending on how late you’re growing, you generally want to find fast-growing and frost-friendly vegetables.
Don’t worry — there are actually many exciting options for a fall vegetable garden.
Options for a successful fall harvest are:
- herbs of all kind
- & more.
Some crops overwinter (meaning you plan them in the fall and harvest the following July). Our favorite overwinter crop is garlic, which is an incredibly easy-to-grow and hardy crop.
This article at the University of Minnesota contains an accessible table that includes common fall crops, their days to maturity, and how frost affects said crop. It can be a beginning research point as you decide how and what to grow.
6. Choose Roots
Root vegetables are a wonderful option for late season planting. They’re hardy growers and unlikely to be spooked by a little chill. Growing vegetables like radishes mature incredibly quickly and can grow until the soil freezes.
Turnips take a little longer but survive a light frost, while carrots take a little longer and require earlier planting.
Meanwhile, beets actually taste and color differently when grown in the fall than in the spring. In any case, there’s something about roasted root veggies that just screams fall, no?
Our favorite root to grow in the late fall season is garlic. You plant and take care of it all winter to be harvested in July. It’s a long haul, but garlic is an exciting and useful plant to grow.
Bonus? It’s a low-maintenance with a hardy spirit.
7. Or Opt for Leafy Greens
Leafy greens + fall = a match made in heaven. Fast-growing lettuce, kale, spinach, and arugula are great choices for
Additionally, many leafy greens can be harvested as microgreens (tender small leaves that are not quite mature yet), meaning you’ll get an edible harvest faster than usual.
8. Grow Indoors with Herbs
Indoor herb gardens are successful year-round. They’re a great option for growing month-to-month throughout winter, giving you plenty of fresh harvests and the opportunity to switch up your crop often (or have multiple mini herb gardens).
You can also grow herbs outdoors, which will be equally successful although they require a little more upkeep. Cilantro and basil are fast-growing herbs that mature from seed to harvest in less than a month.
9. Remember that Fall Gardens Become Fridges
Sound bizarre? The cold weather means that your garden — especially your container garden — becomes a giant fridge for your crop. This means that your fall crops will last in the soil way longer.
As long as your plant matures before it gets too cold, you can harvest for months before your vegetables will go bad. This is especially true for veggies like kale and lettuce. In other words,