Gardeners in warmer regions of the United States plant vegetables in three different growing seasons. Cool season vegetables are planted in late winter. Plant summer vegetables when temperatures warm up in April and May. A third growing season begins in early autumn. If summer heat lingers, gardeners start the fall vegetables in seed trays that can be moved out of the midday sun, and then transplant them when temperatures moderate.
Peas grow in both spring and fall gardens. They grow rapidly, so the autumn crop can be harvested well before the nights become cold. Some pea varieties can be harvested just 50 days after planting. Tender young peas are particularly delicious. They can be picked before maturity, as soon as the pea pods are filled. If you plant peas in both seasons, rotate them to a different area of the garden so pests harmful to pea vines will not propagate in the soil.
Plant bush or snap beans, which can be picked between 50 and 60 days after you plant them. Pole beans take up to 110 days to produce, so they work better in the spring garden than in the fall.
Some loose-leaf lettuce varieties can be harvested within 40 days after planting, making them ideal for the fall garden. The plants need only reach 5 inches in height to be ready for the dinner table. These young leaves are particularly flavorful. Lettuce is sensitive to intense sun. Start the plants in seed trays in August for a late September transplanting to the garden. Don't attempt the slower growing head lettuce in the short autumn garden season.
Kale thrives in cooler growing conditions. If you enjoy a particularly mild winter, you may be able to keep harvesting these leafy greens almost to the time the early spring crops are normally planted. Extend the growing season by placing clear plastic between the rows of greens to keep the soil warmer.
Small carrots are sweet and delicious. They can be harvested as soon as they can be pulled up without the tops breaking off. Larger, mature carrots can be pulled up for consumption as soon as 50 days after being planted, depending on the variety.
Plant broccoli from seed in August. Flower heads should start forming by early November. The immature flower buds are the part of the broccoli plant that is eaten. Cool weather helps keep the buds from blossoming into yellow flowers, which means you can harvest the broccoli for a longer period of time.