Fall Gardening: What to Grow, When to Plant, and Challenges to Expect

Fall Gardening: What to Grow, When to Plant, and Challenges to Expect

The following crops can be easily grown in most North American growing climates during the Fall-Winter seasons:

  • Beets
  • Lettuce
  • Cilantro
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Fennel
  • Rutabaga/swedes
  • Turnip
  • Fava bean
  • Pea
  • Cauliflower
  • Chard
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Parsnip
  • Parsley
  • Broccoli
  • Flowers: Sunflower, Calendula
  • If available space, cover crops: fava beans and peas are great because they can double as a cover crop/food crop.

 Think like a farmer

  • Plan one to two seasons ahead; this could be a planting calendar, or basically just thinking, “What do I want to have to eat for the next season?"
  • Considerations:
    • Seedlings versus seeds; timing is critical. Some plants can take two to three weeks from seed before they really get growing. Most plants that you find at a nursery have already two or three weeks of growth
    • three seeds per cell if starting from seed. Indoor or in seedling cells is ideal.
  • Successional planting – consider this planning in-between seasons. Say, you want to ensure a lettuce harvest for many months; plant for the available space you have by sowing small amounts of seeds every few weeks. 
  • Remember that everything slows down – from now ‪until December 21st we are losing about two minutes of daylight per day. Consider the challenging times for fall gardening: first week of November through January 20th. Consider breaking from planting or having all significant crops in the ground. For anyone curious to see a daylight calendar, check out: http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/Dur_OneYear.php 

Useful tools:

  • digging fork
  • rake
  • flat headed shovel
  • gopher shovel

Fertilizers and soil:

  • Macro-nutrients: Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorous The product's N-P-K numbers reflect each nutrient's percentage by weight. So, for instance, times fertilizer weight by number on fertilizer bag to determine actual nutrients applied. This means a 50 pound bag of fertilizer with a 10-10-10 NPK listing has 10% of fertilizer by weight.
  • Good all around value for macro-nutrient: 10-5-2.
  • Consider slow versus quick release fertilizer. Slow release will provide sustained nutrient for the plant over the season whereas quick release will be helpful for plants grown in soil with poorer fertility.


Major fall pests and some helpful organic solutions

  • Aphids: neem oil
  • Flea Beetle/pill bugs: diatomaceous earth
  • Cabbage Moth: BT (bacillus thuringiensis)
  • Slugs and Snails: sluggo/iron phosphate
  • Gophers: traps or physical barriers (raised beds lined with cages; gopher cages, black box trap)

A few random observations not necessarily connected to fall gardening:

  • Winter Squash: not grown in winter – a summer crop like zucchini 
  • Sweet potatoes and yams – a yam is an orange fleshed sweet potato
  • Genetically engineered crops: don’t want to get into a long discussion but there are far fewer  crops than many people assume – major genetically engineered crops in circulation are: corn, sugar beet, soy, canola, cotton, papaya. To see GM crop approvals on a country by country basis, visit: https://www.isaaa.org/gmapprovaldatabase/countrylist/default.asp

A couple recommended sources:

  • Steve Solomon, Gardening When It Counts
  • Free/printed books from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, particularly Building Soils for Better Crops, 3rd Edition http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books