Colder weather has finally arrived but in some areas of the country there is still time to plant a vegetable garden. You heard me correctly, a vegetable garden! While warm weather crops like tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini get all the glory there are plenty of vegetables that you can plant right now and enjoy fresh vegetables into the New Year!

There are many good reasons to consider growing a vegetable garden in the fall. Soil temperatures remain warm, rainfall is more predictable and the cool nights help limit evaporation from the soil. This creates an environment that is ideal for germinating seeds of cool weather crops. Additionally, there are fewer weeds to contend with as most weeds are warmer weather plants and many of the insect pests that you have to contend with during the summer months are not as much of an issue in the cooler days of fall.

One of the characteristics that you may notice about these vegetables is that many of them grow very low to the ground. This is important as this keeps the plants close to the warmth and moisture in the soil. Additionally, these plants are also much less sensitive to frost and many of them, given just a little bit of extra protection such as a layer of mulch can do quite well into late fall even in garden zones 5 and 6.

The list of vegetables that you can grow in a fall garden is quite lengthy. Some of the better known ones are spinach, leaf lettuce and radishes but broccoli, kale and swiss chard are also quite popular. So, how do you know when it is time to plant these vegetables? The first piece of information that you want to obtain is when the first frost date in your area occurs. This can be easily found on the Internet. The next step is to review the seed package for the vegetable you are looking to plant where you will find information on the number of days it takes for the plant to reach its maturity date. You then simply take your first frost date and subtract the number of days to maturity from it and this tells you when to plant your seed.

You can find seed packages for these fall vegetables as well as plants if you prefer them here at Blooming Secrets. So, if you’ve never tried growing cool weather vegetables before why not give them a try this year?

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  • Kristi.zeman@sbcglobal.net Aug 01

    That’s a cool tip about using the frost date to back out the days to maturity for when you need to plant. But I live in Southern California and we don’t have a frost date. I should be able to grow vegies year around. Any advice? We are doing farm to school concept at our middle school and growing food in our outdoor garden boxes to use in our salad bar and kitchen made foods like Zucchini bread or strawberries in our specialty salad. Growing a passion fruit vine and hoping to make jam with it for our school to sell and use the profit to put back into our garden.

    In Southern CA, you can grow some cool season crops year round (kale and chard come to mind first) especially if you live near the Ocean, which keeps conditions cooler. There are two big shifts in vegetable gardening for you: At the end of September, beginning of October it’s all about the winter crops. At the end of February, beginning of March, the focus is one summer and the heat lovers. Seeds get started slightly before then (if you have the right conditions, up to six weeks before then!).

    Here are some ideas.
    Jan – Mar
    Lettuce, carrots, beets, parsnips, potatoes, celeriac, radishes, spinach

    Apr – Jun
    Beans of all colors, lettuce, radishes, beets, spinach, set out plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basil, melons, you can start planting all corn now.

    Jul - Sep
    At the end of August in a shaded location, the first of the winter veggies can be started, cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, fava beans, leeks, shallots, onions. You can also start sowing turnips, parsnips, radishes, beets and carrots – keep seeds moist!

    Oct-Dec
    Set out some of your cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, chard and so on. You can also direct sow favas if you want. Potatoes can usually be found about now as well as sets or seed bulb of onions, garlic and shallots

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