Fall gardening can be confusing for those of us who haven’t been gardening our entire lives. Can you really plant vegetables in September? What are the cutoff dates for getting cold-weather loving veggies in the ground?
The answer to this depends on the type of vegetable, and the days that it will take for a particular plant to reach maturity according to the information on the seed packet. There are also other factors, like whether it will be unseasonably warm or cool this fall, and whether you have taken the time to fertilize your garden soil before re-planting after summer’s harvest.
This terrific article from Mother Earth News lists the fall garden plants that you can sow seeds for in September and enjoy hearty fall veggies through the cold November and December months.
Plant shallots, multiplying onions and nest onions in mid fall.
Beets, carrots, lettuce and spinach are fast growers and can be direct-sown in August for a late fall harvest. So can some hybrid varieties of broccoli, cauliflower and kohlrabi.
Direct-sow spinach and corn salad (mache) 6 to 8 weeks before first killing frost.
Plant romaine or bib lettuce in early September, to be housed under a protective cold frame.
Direct-sow broccoli rabe 8 weeks before your first killing frost.
Plant radishes, rhubarb and spinach in September for a late fall harvest.
You can even sow spinach and lettuce seeds in December for a spring harvest! Cover with a nice mulch, and these will be your first crops to emerge in spring.
According to Susan Berry of Itzy Bitzy Farm in Southeast Massachusetts, “The garden season does not have to end September 1st. When you grow cold weather crops you can still have a bountiful harvest in December. Enjoy!”
Fall Vegetable Gardening Guide for NJ Zone 6:
Note: if you want to try a fall garden but you forgot to sow your seeds in midsummer, stop at your local nursery to see what cold-weather plants they have already started. You can purchase these young plants and put them in the garden by early September for a fall and early winter harvest. This is the case for many of the cold-weather loving veggies (listed below).
Vegetables with the shortest days to maturity will work best in your fall garden. This includes spinach, lettuce, Chinese cabbage, beets, mustard greens, among others.
Direct-sow means plant seeds directly in the ground.
Start seeds means plant them in pots or use a seed-starting kit.
Transplant means remove a young plant from its small pot and plant in your garden.
Here is a rough guide to starting/transplanting veggies for a fall crop:
beets – direct-sow mid august. transplant mid september. harvest october.
broccoli – direct-sow beginning july. harvest time varies by type.
brussels sprouts – direct-sow mid june. harvest october.
carrots – direct-sow at end of may. harvest august.
cabbage – start seeds mid june. transplant early august. harvest end of october.
chickory – start seeds 2nd week of july. transplant mid august. harvest mid october.
Chinese cabbage – start seeds early august. harvest mid october.
endive – start in late june. transplant early august. harvest october.
garlic – start in mid august. transplant mid september. harvest mid november.
kale – start early august. transplant mid september. harvest in october.
kohlrabi – start mid august. transplant late september. harvest october.
lettuce – start seeds early september. harvest october.
mustard greens – start seeds early september. transplant early october. harvest end oct.
onion – start end of june. transplant early august. harvest mid october.
parsley – start early september. harvest until november.
parsnip – start end of june. harvest october, or overwinter – mulch and pick in spring.
peas – start end of june. harvest september.
radish – mid august or early september. harvest according to maturity dates on package.
rutabaga – start early july. transplant early august. harvest october.
spinach – start early august. transplant mid sept. harvest early october.
Swiss chard – start early august. transplant september. harvest october.
turnip – start mid august. transplant early september. harvest october.