When we think of a vegetable garden, we often think of sowing in spring, harvesting through the
summer and early fall, and finally putting it to bed for the winter months until we start the cycle all
over again next srping. The first harvest doesn't have to be the end, though. Instead of winding
down as summer draws to a close, how about catching our second wind and getting ready for
another round? Our mild climate here in the Northwest is ideal for fall gardening!
Why Garden in Fall?
It's true that the selection of crops is more limited when planting for fall, but there are also some
advantages that shouldn't be overlooked. Cooler weather means watering is needed less
frequently. Insect pests are in decline after peaking in summer. With the traditional summer
favorites no longer commanding space in the garden spot, it's a great time to try something
different. And of course there's no better way to keep fresh green salads on your menu long after
the last buttery ear of corn is a distant memory.
Where Should I Plant?
Ideally, you'll want a spot that doesn't become waterlogged when summer sun gives way to fall and
winter rain. If your regular garden spot meets that requirement, you can just rotate in your fall
crops as you harvest spring and summer ones. Raised beds are especially good for fall gardens.
Prepare the soil just as you would in spring. Between crops is a good time to remove weeds either
by pulling or applying herbicide. Loosen the top few inches of soil and add a good dose of compost
or well-rotted manure and some all-purpose veggie fertilizer, even if you already did back at spring
planting time. The previous crop has likely depleted the soil of nutrients, especially nitrogen. If
your soil tends to be acidic, apply some lime, too.
What Should I Plant?
Choose your fall crops with an eye toward quick-maturing, cold-hardiness, or both. Regular season
favorites like tomatoes, corn, and potatoes are out, but there are still plenty of cool weather veggies
to tickle your palate. Most seeds that are appropriate for fall planting will say so in the growing
directions on the back of the packet.
- Peas. The same qualities that make them an early spring favorite make them a natural
choice in fall, too.
- Root vegetables such as carrots, beets, and radishes. Carrots and beets may even be left
in the ground over the winter and harvested as needed.
- Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, kale, mesclun, mustard greens,
and collards. Most of these aren't bothered by light frosts; kale in particular is said to be
improved by exposure to frost.
- Brassicas such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and kohlrabi.
- Garlic and onions. Garlic bulbs are best planted in fall for harvest in early summer next
year. Onions may be planted from seed at this time for harvest next year, too.
When Should I Plant?
Late July to August are common sowing times, but it varies from crop to crop, depending on time to
maturity and cold tolerance. In general, find out how long it takes to grow and subtract from the
date you'd like to have it ready to harvest. For instance, a plant that matures in 60 days should be
planted around the first of August in order to be ready around the end of September. Some crops
may grow well into or even through the winter, and really quick growing ones like radishes or
spinach might even be sown and harvested more than once.
Fall Garden Hazards
There are a few things to look out for when gardening in fall and winter.
- Slugs. Cool moist weather may bring them out in force, so protect your crops with a good
- Freezing temperatures. Even frost-hardy veggies may not stand up to a hard freeze. If
you've got crops you'd like to keep growing through the winter, keep an eye on the forecast
and use mulch or row covers to protect them.
- Rain. The torrential rains of a Northwest winter may be more of a threat than cold. Plant in a
spot with good drainage, and if necessary add a little fertilizer to replace the nutrients
leached out by rain.
Fewer insect pests
Keep your green thumb
Grow something different
Fresh salads in October!
We have everything
you need for fall
control, garden tools,