Eating fresh, ripe, locally grown fruit and vegetables or using them in cooking is a fantastic feeling, and everything tends to taste better when it’s allowed to ripen fully before harvest rather than ripening on a truck in transit.
But you know what’s even better? Growing your own fresh fruits and vegetables, picking them yourself, and enjoying the freshest, crispest taste with the satisfaction of knowing you grew them yourself. On that subject, fall is a fantastic time to garden, and you can reap a bountiful harvest from your own backyard before the bitter cold of winter sets in. If you’re intrigued by now (as you should be), keep reading, for we are going to give you some helpful tips to get your fall garden started, and run you through the best things to plant this season.
So You Want to Plant a Fall Garden?
Before you begin, there are a few things to consider. The first is that only some plants—that is, more cold-hardy ones—are fit for a fall garden, but more on that later. The second is that fall gardens merit special, frost-conscious practices. You need to watch the weather and be aware of when cold fronts are coming, and how low the temperature will dip. A mild frost is generally short-lived, and drops just below 32 degrees F, while a hard frost lasts for at least 4 hours and dips below 20 degrees. We’ll give specifics for each plant we recommend, and for those we recommend covering, you’ll want to use sheets of non-woven polyester to carefully drape over your garden rows when needed.
There’s nothing quite like seasoning your food with homegrown herbs. The herbs best suited for the fall season are parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, chives, lavender, cilantro, and mint. Note that mints—such as peppermint and spearmint—are aggressive and perennial; they practically live forever and they will choke out your other plants if you let them; we recommend planting mint plants in pots for this reason, with one plant per pot. For that matter, herbs, in general, are very friendly to pots, and with the exception of the mints (which, by the way, you can keep around all year and perpetually harvest), the rest can be planted together in the same container, which can make your life much easier. Herbs do not typically need to be covered, but if a hard frost lasting for at least four hours rolls in, cover them or take potted herbs inside.
Onions are relatively easy to grow. You can tell they’re ripe when the tops begin to yellow. Mild frosts are fine, hard frosts should be okay, but cover just in case.
A delicious addition to any salad or a tasty snack on their own, snap peas can be harvested pretty much whenever. Can generally survive any frost, but cover during a hard frost lasting longer than 4 hours, just in case.
Lettuce is an ideal cool-weather crop, and in fact, can only really be grown in cool weather. You can pick leaves for use at any time when they look big enough, just carefully snap them off while leaving the “bud” of the plant intact to unfurl more leaves later. Fine in light frost, cover in hard frost.
You need to harvest broccoli when the head looks mature but before it flowers. If you start to see any of the tiny buds opening up or see tiny yellow petals coming from them, harvest immediately and don’t eat the opened ones. Broccoli can withstand most hard frosts.