Most people don't think about planting a garden in the fall, but it's a great time for a variety of vegetables, including root veggies like turnips and beets, members of the cabbage family like bok choy and Chinese cabbage, and even peas and carrots. Knowing when and how to prepare and plant a fall vegetable garden will keep you in veggies year round.
Check seed packages for vegetable varieties that are considered hardy and able to take cooler temperatures. Seed catalogs will also specify which varieties of vegetables will work best. Fall vegetable plantings will be ready for harvesting, depending on vegetable, by spring or early summer. Other vegetables, such as root-type vegetables, can be planted late in the summer for a fall harvest. Depending on your climate, some vegetables will do fine over the winter months, while others need a little extra care and protection. For example, garlic and other root vegetables can be planted as late as October. Some varieties of above-ground vegetables, such as spinach, can survive light or hard frosts, especially when provided with protection like a tarp during frost or snowfall.
For a late fall harvest, plant seeds according to the date predicted for the first hard frost, which in most locations means 25 degrees or lower. In many areas of the country, this frost may occur in early November, while higher altitudes may get an earlier frost. Determine the average date of the first hard frost in your area by checking a Farmer's Almanac, often found in your local library or bookstore. Then determine the average harvest or growth period of the vegetable by looking on the back of the seed package. Add to that about two weeks for additional growing time due to cooler temperatures. Count backward the total number of days from the first anticipated hard frost date to determine the best planting date.
Plant seeds deeper for a fall garden to protect them from heavy rains and insulate them from cold. Saturate the soil with water and allow it to drain prior to planting seeds in order to help speed up the germination process.
Protect seedlings and fall plantings with coverings for nights when a frost is expected. Tarps, blankets, sheets or commercial garden cover products may be purchased for chilly nights in September and October.
Harvest ripe vegetables in late November. In some regions, kale, spinach, carrots and peas may be ready by Thanksgiving. Keep a careful eye on your plants, protect them from wind as much as possible, and offer them shade if fall is uncommonly sunny or warm.