The fall garden requires a certain type of vegetable in order to be successful. Seeds or seedlings are started in the long hot days of summer, so they get a good head start in growing. When the plants are bearing, the days are shorter and cooler, and there may not be as much sunlight. Plants that need long sunny days in order to produce a good harvest are not good fall crops. Cole crops and short season growers are ideal.
Broccoli is one of the most popular cole crops for the home garden. It is useful for fresh eating in the fall, and is very easy to freeze for storage during the winter months. Dig a good amount of compost into your garden bed, and plant broccoli seeds about 100 days before your first fall frost date. You can find your frost date from Farmers' Almanac, or other gardening maps. The plants will grow quickly in the hot end of summer, and when the heads have filled out, cut them and allow the side shoots to grow for a later autumn crop.
Lettuce does not like hot weather, as this encourages the plant to bolt, or go to seed. In order to harvest tender lettuce leaves, the weather must be cool and mild. Most gardeners think of lettuce as a spring crop, and it does well then. But the cooler weather and shorter days of autumn are good for lettuce as well. Harvest the tender outer leaves and the plants will keep on producing until frost.
Carrots usually take two to three months to mature, depending on the variety. Check your seed package to make sure of the timing. Dig a shovelful of compost into your soil and plant the seeds in an open bed. Sprinkle a few radish seeds in among the carrots, as radish will be ready to harvest about when the carrots are ready for thinning. Pick finger-sized carrots in the early fall, and allow others to mature to full size for eating and storage through winter.