Fall gardening guide

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radishes, lettuce and carrots

In August our regional average temperature begin to decrease, signaling that fall is on the way. Plant now to fill your cornucopia with an abundant fall harvest!

Know your USDA plant hardiness zone and first frost date

Knowing your plant hardiness zone helps determine what to plant and when to plant it. Input your zip code in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service free online tool to discover your plant hardiness zone.

Frost calendars reveal when the first and last frost will arrive in your area. Predictions are based on historical averages. The Farmer’s Almanac publishes a frost calendar in-print and online. Although most cool season crops withstand light frost, sow seeds with enough time for plants to reach maturity before freeze is expected.

Days to maturity

Days to maturity is annotated on seed packets and seedling nursery tags. Choose vegetable varieties that require fewer days to mature to maximize yield before winter weather arrives. Alternatively, you can harvest baby versions of lettuce, kale and spinach before they reach full maturity.

For example, here’s how to calculate when to plant DeCicco broccoli with a 50-60 days to maturity in USDA Zone 6. Frost is expected the last week of September. Count backwards on the calendar for the maximum maturity of 60 days. Determine seed should be sowed the first week of August.

What to plant this fall

Leafy greens, cole crops and short-rooted radishes and carrots grow great in the fall garden. Alliums like garlic and onions can be left in the ground to overwinter. If your green thumb needs a rest, consider sowing a cover crop to improve garden soil health during the off-season.

My favorite fall crops: 

Leafy greens

  • Loose leaf lettuces
  • Spinach

Cole

  • Kale
  • Collards
  • Broccoli

Alliums

  • Scallions
  • Garlic (overwinter)
  • Bulb onions (overwinter) 

Roots

  • Radish
  • Carrots

Cover crops

  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Field peas

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