A vegetable garden doesn't end at the end of summer. While many heat-loving plants are winding down production, there are many vegetable plants that thrive in the cooler days of fall when sunlight is still abundant. Planting a fall vegetable garden in mid- to late-summer extends the harvest so you can be eating fresh garden vegetables even in the beginning of winter.
Peas are cool-season vegetables that are usually planted as an early spring crop. However, both edible seed and pod varieties are also suitable for fall gardens as long as you provide enough moisture for them to thrive. In areas with mild winters, pea plants are often able to overwinter when they are planted in late fall so they can begin producing even earlier in the spring.
All lettuce varieties require cool days to produce. Warm temperatures quickly cause the plants to go to seed, which ends their production. Plant head lettuce in mid-summer for fall harvest; but wait until late summer to plant leaf lettuce. Planting lettuce in a cold frame successfully extends the harvest through fall and into winter as the plants continue to produce until they freeze.
Turnips are prime fall vegetables. Taking less than two months to reach maturity, turnips are planted in late summer for harvest in mid-autumn. These root vegetables also store well, making them a suitable vegetable for use in winter months.
While garlic isn't harvested in the fall, autumn is the prime time to plant garlic since it requires winter cold to grow properly. Garlic is usually planted around the first fall frost, and left to overwinter in the garden. Harvest fall-planted garlic in the summer.
Brassicas are cool-season vegetables, which include: cauliflower, broccoli and cabbages. Plant Brassicas in late summer for fall harvest. Because they do not germinate in overly warm soils, start the seeds indoors and transplant them out a few weeks later. You can harvest these plants up until the first hard frost in late fall or early winter.
Plant beets in the late summer for late fall harvest; both beet greens and roots can be harvested in the fall. Beets survive some minor freezing, which means their harvest can be delayed until early winter in some areas. Beets are ready to harvest within two months of planting, so gardeners who live in areas that are not prone to early season freezes can plant beets in the early fall instead of in summer.