For many growers, October means the beginning of harvest season and the time to get the garden ready for the cold weather. But, for warmer climate zones, October means it’s time to get planting – for grows both large-scale and small.
While the fall season in these regions is temperate, its far cooler than in the summer months, and far less stressful for new plants. The rainfall begins and generally arrives in light showers rather than the deluge of a winter storm. These gentle rains will keep the new growth watered, and as the sun is lower in the sky, it will evaporate more slowly, lessening the need for constant irrigation.
Not only can the fall be easier on new plants, but late fall and winter is also the only time some annuals will grow! That means that now is the time to get those seeds started. Here are the top 6 vegetables to plant this fall:
Broccoli: Best planted in fall, this cool-season crop is a good source of Vitamin A, potassium, folic acid, iron, and fiber. Fertilize broccoli three weeks after transplanting seedlings into the garden, and try not to disturb the plants when they start to grow as their roots run shallow.
Carrot: These root vegetables are fast-growing and can be planted twice a year! Plan for at least 12 inches to allow the seeds to grow and dig out any rocks or other obstructions in the soil – this can cause twisted or misshapen roots; they’ll still taste good, but won’t be so pretty!
Cabbage: This is a prime cool-season crop, growing best when daytime temperatures are around 55 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Water regularly, keeping the soil moist as they grow. Cabbage can take anywhere from 70 – 120 days to mature; they are ready to harvest when the head is firm and the leaves aren’t loose. If freezing temperatures happen early in the season, it’s best to harvest it early as they don’t do well in extreme cold.
Lettuce: Another cool-weather crop that does best in fall, lettuce seedlings can even withstand a light frost! Make sure the soil is loose and drains well, and should be amended with compost or other nutrients before planting. Lettuce seeds germinate best at 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, emerging around 7 to 10 days after planting. Harvest lettuce when it reaches full size, but just before maturity as the leaves will taste best when they’re still tender.
Radish: An easy to grow root, radishes can be planted multiple times during a season, and do best in loose, well-fertilized soil. Radishes are ready to harvest fairly quickly after planting, as soon as three weeks after sowing depending on the variety. They should be harvested when they’re about 1” in diameter at the surface of the soil – be careful not to wait too long after maturity, as their condition will deteriorate quickly if left in the ground.
Snow peas: The cooler fall temperatures encourage pea plants to grow faster than seeds planted in the spring, and they’ll do best if the soil is loosened and treated with compost or fertilizer. Snow peas need the soil to stay moist, so keep track of how often they’re being watered. Harvest snow peas when the pods are a few inches long with peas that aren't fully developed.
A fall garden is a great way to take your plot through cooler weather while still producing some veggies for your table. With these staple crops, you'll keep your grow producing and your garden flourishing.