When deciding what vegetables grow in the fall, keep in mind that using proper techniques to warm the soil and protecting the plants from the weather elements will ensure success. Extending your vegetable garden into fall not only offers you the chance to harvest more produce from warm weather crops like tomatoes, but also allows you to grow cool weather crops such as salad greens that can last into winter.
Cool Weather Crops
A variety of cool weather plants will thrive in the fall garden. When choosing what vegetables to grow in the fall, think about how late into the season you would like to harvest produce. Numerous cool weather plants will survive for most, if not all, of the winter under cover.
Brussels sprouts, kale, salad greens, carrots, potatoes, spinach, radish, beets, turnips, peas and leeks are all good candidates for the fall garden. Sow seed in late July or early August so the plants are large enough to harvest before the extreme cold weather sets in. Protect these cool weather crops with a cold frame--a small, box-like structure made of wood, plastic, glass or straw bales. The exceptions are Brussels sprouts and kale, which taste better after several light frosts have hit.
Warm Weather Crops
When thinking about what vegetables grow in the fall, do not forget plants still in the summer garden. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants as well as other warm weather crops will continue to produce into autumn as long as the soil remains warm and the plants are in a frost-free location.
Creating the right conditions by using compost and cold frames to keep these warm weather crops alive is all it takes to get several more weeks worth of produce out of the same plants you have been growing all summer long.
Season Extending Tips
When night temperatures begin falling, the soil will begin to cool down. Adding a three-inch layer of compost around the plants can help warm the soil. Be sure the compost does not touch the plants' stems.
Row cover, also known as frost cover, is a lightweight polyester or polyethylene fabric that helps insulate plants from extreme cold temperatures while also protecting the plants growing underneath it from frost. Never lay row cover directly on top of the plants; instead attach it to hoops positioned a few inches above. Use row cover alone or in conjunction with cold frames or tunnel houses, which is a plastic tunnel-shaped structure positioned above plants growing in the ground.
The use of cold frames and tunnel houses can add an additional layer of protection for plants growing inside them. The amount of time these structures will extend the fall harvest will depend on whether you are growing warm or cool weather crops.