The benefit of growing your own autumn vegetables means you’ll be eating the best and freshest produce. You can brag on growing your own food. Saving money too!
Nothing compares to picking produce directly from your garden to eat while it’s fresh and full of nutrients!
Right now is the perfect time to plant vegetables that naturally prefer cold weather.
General Rules for Planting Autumn Vegetables:
Know when to expect your first freeze in the US by checking out this map.
On average, a large area of the US has a first freeze around October 15. The further north or higher in elevation you are, the earlier this date becomes. In fact in some parts of the Rocky Mountains the first freeze can come in August! If you live in southern states, first freezes may not happen until late November.
If you live in a zone that has a late freeze, you could plant fall vegetables right into winter.
If you live in a zone that has an early freeze you’ll want to plant now. This allows your plants to get established and hardened off before that first freeze. Late summer to early fall is the ideal time for you to plant outdoors.
Cold weather vegetables thrive in cooler temperatures natch.
Once you have plants in pots, take advantage of falls’ shorter days and maximize sunlight exposure to plants as much as possible. Cover plants at night when frost or freeze is expected. Uncover once danger of frost has lifted to take advantage of daytime warmth and sunshine.
Want a quick harvest? These vegetables can be harvested in 40 days or less: Arugula, spinach, and radishes. Asian greens are also fast growers.
Starting Vegetables from Seed
Use a good seed starting mix and plant seeds and soil in trays. You can find trays at garden centers or use recycled containers. If you’re re-purposing used trays, make sure you clean them well with 1 part bleach to 10 parts water to kill any bugs and bacteria.
Live in a hot summer climate? Start seeds indoors or where it’s cooler. A shaded spot will do as well.
Starting Vegetables from Seedlings
Plant seedlings into soil beds or containers that you’ve added good quality organic compost material to.
Live in a hot summer climate? Plant seedlings a little deeper into soil where their roots will stay cool.
Maintaining Growth of Seedlings
Water: Keep seedlings watered evenly especially if you live in a warm climate. Once your seedlings are established aim for one deep watering per week. Water under (not onto) leaves.
Frost: Be prepared to cover your plants during a frost. Keep some bamboo stakes upright around the pot or plant. You can drape an old towel or blankets over these as needed. Remember to remove once the sun is up and warm.
Sun: Most vegetables need 8 hours or more of sun daily to thrive.
When to Transplant Seedlings:
Once a plant or seedling has 2-4 true leaves, it’s ready to be transplanted into it’s grownup container.
Before you transplant, the seedlings need to be hardened off.
If you’ve been raising your seeds or seedlings indoors, this is the step where you gradually introduce them to the great outdoors. If you’ve been growing them outdoors you can skip this step.
Before Transplanting – Harden Off:
Place your seedling containers in a tray so you can easily carry them. Put them outside in a shaded area for a few hours, then bring them back in. Next day leave them out a little longer. The following day let them stay out all day. The next step is to set your tray of seedlings in a sunny spot for a few hours. Increase the time they’re in that sunny spot the next day until the following day when they stay out all day.
Be sure to bring them in at night. Over the course of a week you’ve gradually exposed your little seedlings to outdoor temperatures and as long as there are no day time freezes planned you should be able to plant them in their new outdoor home. Get your trade up container ready by the end of this week.
Autumn Vegetables to Grow for Fall and Winter Harvesting
- Spinach -Plant 6-10 weeks before your first freeze. It will continue to grow during the winter and possibly spring. Very hardy.
- Kale – Plant seed 10-12 weeks from first freeze, or plants one month before. Very hardy through winter.
- Broccoli – Plant seed 85-100 days before first frost or seedlings 55 days before. Thin seedlings to 12” apart. Harvest main head while buds are tight and firm, side heads will continue to grow.
- Beets – Plant seeds 8-10 weeks before first frost. Plant 3-4” apart or if closer use the thinnings in salads. Grow on your deck in a container at least 12” deep.
- Turnips – Sow seed in late summer or early autumn depending on when you want them to mature
- Carrots – Sew seed 12 weeks before frost. Cut green tops and cover over winter to keep sweet
- Cabbage – Sew seed 12 weeks before frost or seedlings 6 weeks before
- Rocket (Arugula) Sew seeds in late summer for fall or early winter harvest. Sew new seeds even 2-3 weeks for a continuous harvest.
- Parsley – Plant seeds in the fall to harvest the following May or early June. Or plant transplant seedlings right into a pot to start harvesting sooner. By late summer, as temps get hotter, parsley will flower and bolt or go to seed. Plant seeds again in the fall.
How to Grow Autumn Vegetables from Seed
Here’s all you need to know to start your vegetables from seed. I recommend starting your seeds in recycled containers to begin with and then transplanting into a larger container. Once you’ve transplanted your seedlings into a container, follow these directions or refer to the package of seeds you bought for more specific instructions on care and harvesting.