Fall vegetable gardens take a little more care and preparation when compared to spring gardens, not to mention math skills. Still, if planned properly, it is possible to enjoy fresh vegetables from your garden weeks after the first frost for your area--which for Tennessee means as late as October or November.
Find the Last Planting Date for Your Vegetables
Find out the average date of the first frost for your area. In Tennessee, this date can be as early as September 19 or as late as November 6. See UT's "Fall Vegetable Gardens" under References for a listing.
Add two weeks to the average date of the first frost (found in Step 1) if planting cool-season crops such as kale, broccoli, kohlrabi, radishes, turnips, and collards. Subtract two weeks from the average date of the first frost if planting warm-season crops such as tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers and snap beans.
Find the estimated time for the seeds to mature from planting. This should be listed on the seed packaging.
Add ten days to the estimated time for the seeds to mature (found in Step 3) to allow for the shorter days of fall. This is the "days to maturity" for that crop.
Subtract the number of "days to maturity" found in Step 2 from the date found in Step 4. This is the last planting date for that vegetable for your area.
Repeat Steps 1 through 5 for every vegetable you expect to plant.
Planting and Caring for Fall Vegetables
Choose vegetable varieties carefully. Good fall choices for Tennessee include bush or snap beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, cucumbers, kale, leaf lettuce, Irish potatoes, mustard, radish, spinach, summer squash, tomatoes and turnips.
Select a date for planting. This should be sometime before the last planting date for the vegetable.
Water soil thoroughly before planting.
Plant seeds approximately 1/4 inch deeper than spring plantings to ensure the seed does not dry out.
Cover the seeds with a light mulch of compost or vermiculite. This will help keep the seeds moist and prevent a crust from forming over them.
Water the seeds regularly. Apply at least 1 inch of water per week.
Provide shade for young plants, if possible.
Check garden frequently for weeds and pests, which are more prolific in the fall.
Cover vegetables if the temperature suddenly drops at night or an early frost is predicted. Use old blankets or drop cloths that are supported by stakes, plastic jugs, paper cups or commercially prepared items.