While most gardeners plant vegetables in late spring or the summer months, there are many vegetables that can flourish in colder temperatures. Local University of Missouri horticulture specialist Kelly McGowan has five fall vegetables for you to plant this year. She says to ensure you have plenty to harvest, plant these vegetables with enough time to start growing before frost hits.
Lettuce is a plant that has numerous varieties, is easy to grow and is great for fall temperatures. Place lettuce seeds right into your soil and make sure to keep them watered as the season goes on. If there is a freeze warning, cover your plants until the next morning. Once the leaves are out of the ground and around three to four inches in height, they are ready to harvest. McGowan recommends only harvesting what you need at the time of harvest to allow the lettuce to continue to grow and create a more bountiful harvest.
As the temperature of the soil drops in the fall, the sweetness level of carrots increases. This makes them an excellent choice for fall planting, says McGowan. Direct sow your carrot seeds into the soil and thin the plants to about one inch between each once they start to sprout. While carrots are cold-weather hardy, McGowan encourages covering them on frosty nights. You’ll know carrots are ready to harvest when you see the top of the carrot poke out of the ground.
Garlic is a highly recommended vegetable to plant during the fall. “Garlic will survive all winter and be ready for harvest in June or July,” says McGowan. Plant individual garlic cloves one to two inches apart and place a layer of straw over the soil. Next year, when the bottom leaves of the plant start to brown, it means it’s time to harvest.
Sugar Snap Peas
Sugar snap peas are a climbing plant; after planting seeds directly in the ground place something in your garden to help them climb. If frost is predicted, make sure your pea plants are covered.
Parsley is more cold hardy than people realize, says McGowan. Seeds can be started indoors or directly sown into your garden. If parsley is not something you enjoy, other herbs like cilantro and chives will do great in the garden this time of year.
Other Veggies to Try
Broccoli, beets and a variety of greens including arugula, kale, spinach, collard greens and tatsoi can handle the colder temperatures wonderfully if planted in early September.
Kale and collard greens should be started six to eight weeks before the first frost, and spinach should be started four to six weeks before the first frost. Kale and spinach can survive temperatures down to 10 degrees, and collard greens can survive down to 5 degrees.
After the Harvest
Of course, when your fall vegetables are ready to be harvested you need to know how to prepare or preserve them so your hard work does not go to waste. If you want to save your vegetables for later, try closing them in a vacuum-sealed bag and placing them in the freezer until you’re ready to use. Or, use up your fresh greens by making a hearty, Tuscan kale soup or kale pesto that you can eat or freeze for later.
Plant Some Bulbs
When it comes to flowers, if you’re just starting your gardening efforts in the spring you’re going to miss out on one of the season’s prettiest payoffs: the first flower bulbs bursting out of the ground. To ensure those early spring delights add color to your yard, get started in the fall. In October plant tulips, crocus, iris, daffodils, hyacinths and other perennial bulbs in the ground.
They’ll stretch out their roots under the earth all winter long and reward you with bright pinks, oranges and violets as soon as the weather warms up.
Once you’ve purchased your bulbs, plant them as soon as you can. (If you have any unplanted bulbs, you’ll need to store them in a cool, dry place.) Then give them a nice long drink from the garden hose and cover them with mulch. After that, you can sit back and forget about them until they pop up in the spring.