Containers are invaluable to those who have little or no room to plant in the ground, like urban dwellers, and they provide plenty of gardening flexibility even for those who have plenty of space. Not only can containers be moved, but they require little square footage to grow plants. More watering is needed, however. Following some simple guidelines will result in prolific fall harvests from containers.
Any fall vegetables that grow well in the ground can also be cultivated in containers, and the same planting timelines apply. Know which USDA hardiness zone you live in, which will determine a predicted first frost date there. Plant seeds in mid to late summer so that plants will mature around the first frost date, when days are cooler. Plant vegetables that mature quickly, like leafy greens and radishes, at the end of the summer.
Many fall vegetables, like crops grown for their roots and leaves, can tolerate partial shade. Frost enhances the flavor of certain varieties, such as Brussels sprouts and kale. Take each vegetable's growing requirements into consideration when deciding container sizes to use and where to place them. Move containers out of the elements prior to storms that could produce high winds and hail.
Know how much space each plant will need to grow, and use containers that are large enough to accommodate them at their maturity. Buy pots at gardening centers and consider using other vessels like milk jugs, window boxes and even barrels. Ensure that anything made out of wood or plastic has not been treated or contains chemicals that are harmful to plants and people, and that each container has holes for drainage. Thoroughly wash containers before using them as planters.
Choose smaller fall vegetables that require little space to thrive and are adapted to container gardening. Grow beets, spaced 2 to 3 inches apart in half-gallon containers, leaf lettuce spaced 4 to 5 inches apart in half-gallon containers, kale spaced 10 to 15 inches apart in 5 gallon containers, carrots 2 to 3 inches apart in 1 quart containers, and turnips 2 to 3 inches apart in 3 gallon containers (all the containers sizes are minimum).
Soil and Care
Fill containers with a lightweight potting soil instead of soil from the garden. Plant varieties at the same time as you would in a traditional garden. Water fall container vegetables more often than you would those grown in the ground, as much as twice daily, because the potting soil will dry out more quickly. Smaller pots and those made of clay dry out the quickest. Mulch around the plants, place the containers in an area that isn't windy and cluster them together to help retain moisture. Add a water-soluble fertilizer after 8 to 10 weeks.