Acorn Squash Forming with Bloom
Organic Gardening

10 Vegetables to Plant in the Fall and Winter

Sharing as we go: Transitioning from Summer Gardening to Fall and Winter

2 butternut squash and 2 acorns squash
Winter Squash on a table

Update Our Summer Garden

We had a lot of success in the garden this year, mixed with some opportunities to improve upon for next year. There was an overabundance of tomatoes, the herbs were thriving, lots of yummy eggplants, sunflowers blooming like crazy, lettuce and arugula, and it was our first year growing from almost entirely from seed. If I hadn’t panicked and had some patience, we wouldn’t have bought some seedlings. That’s something gardeners really have to strive to learn – patience.

The squash were a complete flop. That’s ok though because I’ve learned some tips on how to have better squash crops for next year. We only had 1 zucchini out of all of our squash plants. They were all decimated by squash borers. I’ve never dealt with them before, but thinking back on what happened to our plants last year, I’m almost certain they were present then. I just didn’t realize it.

Acorn Squash Forming with Bloom
Acorn Squash Growing in the Garden

Each year is a learning opportunity – making notes of what was tried each year and what to do differently or keep for the next year. We’ve been growing food each summer at our home for the past two years now and our soil is slowly being amended. We still have a ways to go and we’ll be continuing to amend it. This fall we’ll be testing the soil to see what its deficiencies are, and I’ll be showing you all the results and sharing what we used once we get everything checked. The fall is the best time to start mending the soil. The pace in the garden has slowed and it gives the soil time to rest a bit.

If you plan on growing during the fall, you’ll find that you’ll be dealing less with pests and disease, which as any gardener knows, is quite the perk!

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Yellow Sunflower with Green Center Blossoming
Bright yellow sunflower blooming

What Types of Plants Can You Grow in the Fall and Winter?

If you haven’t read my post on How to Plan Your Vegetable Garden: The Top 5 Things to Know , hop on over there and check it out. I review the categories of hardiness of plants, and what temperatures they can tolerate. Plants in the Brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips) for example, are very hardy when it comes to cold temperatures and they can withstand frost. Root vegetables (beets, carrots) can do particularly well, and can survive frost, as well as thrive in freezing temperatures.

What are we planting this fall?

It’s a common misconception that you can’t grow food in the fall or winter. Many know that you can grow vegetables and fruits during the spring and summer months. When most think of gardens, they think of growing cucumbers and tomatoes. It’s lots of fun to grow during the warmer weather for sure! Plants grow fruit in abundance. However, in growing in colder weather, you’ll find that there is still plenty to plant and there is less risk for disease and pests.

We have a variety of vegetables that were planted at the end of August and early September. Below I review all 10 of those vegetables, provide facts, and tips on planting.

  1. Lettuce
    • Plant Family: Asteraceae
    • Interesting fact: lettuce is part of the daisy family
    • Lettuce is a relatively hardy vegetable that thrives cool temperatures. If weather is too warm, the plant will become stunted, and it may bolt, causing it to have a bitter taste.
      • There are 5 distinct varieties of lettuce: leaf (also called loose-leaf lettuce), Cos or romainecrispheadbutterhead and stem (also called asparagus lettuce).
  2. Cabbage
    • Plant Family: Brassica
    • Cabbage is another cool weather crop and you may have difficulties growing it in warmer weather. Although it may not be viewed as a favorite, it’s a hardy vegetable that’s packed with antioxidants and nutrients.
  3. Kale
    • Plant Family: Brassicaceae
    • Kale is another cold hardy vegetable, and can even grow during warmer weather. It’s a member of the Brassica family, like cabbage is. Although it can grow in warmer weather, it is best planted in the fall, and tastes better because of the cooler weather.
  4. Turnips
    • Plant Family: Mustard, genus Brassica
    • Turnips are a root vegetable that are commonly thought to be related to potatoes, but they’re actually related to radishes. They can be grown year round, but grown best in the fall. Turnips can be stored and keep well if properly stored. They will keep fresh if they are stored in a cool, dry place. Whether you buy them from the store or you grow them, before storing, before sure to remove the greens from the top of the turnip. Leaving the greens will put the vegetable at risk of drying out sooner.
  5. Carrots
    • Plant Family: Umbellifers
    • Unlike vegetables like cabbages that are heavy nitrogen feeders, carrots do better in growing conditions with lower nitrogen. Carrots love loose sandy soil. Before planting, make sure to remove any rocks or clumps of soil. Any type of hard obstruction can result in carrots that are not straight, and compact soil will impede root growth. Although carrots can be grown in warmer weather, they prefer cooler temperature. Carrots will taste better after one or more frosts.
  6. Beets
    • Plant Family: Amaranthaceae
    • If you haven’t already noticed, a lot of vegetables that do well in cooler weather are root vegetables. Beets should either be planted in the spring or can be planted mid-summer to early fall, at least 4 to 6 weeks before the first frost. Beets are a great cold weather crop because they can survive frost and near-freezing temperatures.
  7. Radishes
    • Plant Family: Brassicaceae
    • Radishes are surprisingly in the same plant family as cabbage and mustard! They’re a hardy vegetable that does well in cooler weather, but will not do well in hot weather. It’s another root vegetable as well. In spite of being a root vegetable, they should be planted in a sunny spot. If they’re planted in a shady area, the plant will focus its energy on growing leaves instead of the root.
  8. Bok Choy
    • Plant Family: Brassicas (Cabbage family)
    • Bok choy essentially tastes like cabbage. It’s an Asian vegetable that is great for adding to dishes like stir fries. They’re super simple to cook as they don’t require that much time. They can be planted in early spring or in the late summer to be harvested in the fall.
  9. Parsnips
    • Plant Family: Apiaceae
    • Parnsips are a hardy, cold weather crop that tastes better after there is a frost. They should be grown in rock free soil that’s well-draining in loose soil. Clay and compact soil can result in thin roots.
  10. Arugula
    • Plant Family: Brassicaceae (mustard)
    • It is planted in early spring or early fall, and can be used in all types of dishes. Our favorite way to eat arugula is on an egg sandwich. Young leaves taste better and older leaves can taste bitter.
Basket full of yellow and red tomatoes and two butternut squash
Basket full of yellow and red tomatoes and two butternut squash

Additionally, I plan on trying to use a cover crop for the areas that won’t be covered, as well as mulch comprised of leaves we rake up. The key to using leaves is to shred them and not layer too much. Shredding the leaves will help them break down faster into the soil. Too many layers of leaves used causes mold to grow, which is what you certainly don’t want. We also have some compost that has been breaking down since last year. When we started composting, we didn’t think it was working out too well. However, by allowing it to do its thing, everything wound up breaking down nicely.

Can you grow throughout the winter?

In many areas, yes! In our area we get freezing temperatures. Last winter we had as much as 3-4 feet (cumulatively) of snow here in New Jersey. We hadn’t seen that much snow in a while. To grow where we are, either a greenhouse or row covers are required.

Be sure to also check out this chart from The Farmer’s Almanac about the critical low temperatures for frost damage to vegetables.

What’s a Row Cover?

A row cover is essentially a blanket to keep your crops warm. It consists of framing and a piece of fabric is draped over it and secured. I purchased row covers from Gardener’s Supply Company and will be installing them soon. It’ll be my first time using them and will let you know how it all goes.

Stay tuned for lots of upcoming quick and easy yummy recipes!

OTHER POSTS TO GET YOU STARTED:

GARDENING APPS TO HELP PREPARE:

  • Seed to Spoon (available in the App store) – The app is full of information about different types of vegetables and fruits. By setting up your zipcode in the app, it will tell you what zone you are located in for planting. It will also tell you the friends and foes of each plant for companion planting.
  • PictureThis (available in the App Store) – The app helps identify plants based on foliage and flowers.

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