Homeowners frequently plant a garden in the spring for delicious, fresh summer vegetables. Canning and freezing keep these vegetable treats year-round, but fresh vegetables are scarce once the weather turns cooler. However, there are ways to extend the growing season, even in cold climates, by planting cool-weather plants in August for a second harvest in the fall. Learn which vegetables tolerate less heat and sun to get the best results.
Carrots, radishes, onions, beets and turnips are wonderful fall vegetables. The ground helps shield them from any frost dangers and they grow well without hot sun. In climates where the temperature gets below freezing, these crops still do well planted as late as early September for a late fall harvest. Mulch root crops heavily and they will stay in the garden even after snowfalls to give you mid-winter fresh vegetables.
Broccoli and cauliflower burn easily in summer gardens, but fall is great weather for them. They can take light frost at night and enjoy the cooler temperatures. Both grow fast enough to get in before the first frost if started as a transplanted seedling, not from seed. Start either broccoli or cauliflower before the end of August to be sure to get it harvested before a hard frost. Check the packages of your seeds when you start them indoors or the strip that comes with started plants to calculate the amount of time needed until maturity for any plants you want to use in a fall garden.
Leafy greens such as kale and Swiss chard grow very well in cold weather and are even sweeter if harvested after a frost. Other frost-loving plants are Brussels sprouts and parsnips. These crops do even better in the fall due to the lack of weeds competing for space in the garden the way they do in the summer. Fewer weeds also means more nutrients for your plants, giving them better flavor and texture.
Growing lettuce in the summer is problematic and the leaves wilt and burn easily. Not so in the fall, when the weather is cooler, the sun is not as hot and doesn't last as long. Plant lettuce from seed and keep the ground moist until seedlings appear. Other leaf vegetables in the same family, including spinach, also do very well in a fall garden.