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    Phil Williams

    Fall Gardening

    Prep your garden now.
    by Phil Williams

    Saturday, September 3, 2016, 5:32 PM

Fall gardening is tricky for those of us in the north. The summer is warm and not conducive to propagating and growing cool season crops, fall is short, and the frosts come before Halloween.

Lettuce Mixture Growing in Greenhouse

Lettuce Mixture Growing in Greenhouse

Let’s address these issues one at a time. Ideally, you plant your fall garden as early as possible, once the worst of the heat has begun to dissipate. For me in Zone 6, it is mid to late August. If you can provide shade for your germinating seedlings, you can with success plant a few weeks earlier. If it is still hot, mid to upper eighties or higher, you will not be able to get germination from your cool season seedlings. Even the low-eighties is not ideal for germinating cool season seeds. I try to overcome that by watering daily until I get germination, and after if it is hot and dry.

The fall is short for me, with a probability of 50% that I will receive a frost by October 15th. If I plant in late August, that only gives me about fifty days until my first frost. This makes the majority of the plants listed at the bottom of this article not possible without some kind of frost protection. Also bear in mind that the days to maturity start from the germination date, not the planting date.

Greenhouse with shade tarp. Shade is a must for planting a fall crop inside.

Greenhouse with shade tarp. Shade is a must for planting a fall crop inside.

Floating Row Cover

Floating Row Cover

You can extend the season by using cloches, floating row covers, or a greenhouse. It also helps to plant in a sheltered spot that is frost resistant, like against a south facing wall. Tips for fall gardening success:

  1. Find out your frost date, and plan accordingly.
  2. Get going as early as possible. Plant as soon as heat of summer starts to dissipate.
  3. You can use artificial shade, like shade cloth to starts plants earlier in the summer.
  4. Water your seeds to keep them cool and to get quick germination. Soak your peas and beans before planting to get a jump start.
  5. Use cloches, row covers, or a greenhouse to extend the season past mild frosts.
  6. Plant in a sheltered spot in front of a south facing wall to provide mild frost protection.
  7. Provide compost tea and organic fertilizer to give your plants a jump start. The larger they grow before the first frost, the more likely they are to survive it.

The quickest and best fall crop around- Radishes

The quickest and best fall crop around – Radishes

Below is a list of plants that I grow in the fall, with the number of days to maturity. Remember the number of days is from the germination date, not the planting date. Plan accordingly to determine if any of these plants would work as a fall crop for your garden.

Bean – 48 to 60 (NOT frost resistant)

Beet – 55 to 70

Kohlrabi – 50 to 60

Lettuce, leaf – 40 to 50

Onion – 90 to 150 (To be harvested the following spring)

Radish – 21 to 30

Spinach – 40 to 50

Turnip – 45 to 75

Peas – 60 to 70

~ Phil Williams

Phil Williams is a permaculture consultant and designer and creator of the website  He is also the author of numerous books, most recently, Fire the Landscaper and Farmer Phil's Permaculture. His website provides useful, timely information for the experienced or beginning gardener, landscaper, or permaculturalist. Phil's personal goals are to build soil, restore and regenerate degraded landscapes, grow and raise an abundance of healthy food of great variety, design and install resilient permaculture gardens in the most efficient manner possible, and teach others along the way.

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  • Sat, Sep 03, 2016 - 11:18pm


    Phil Williams

    Status Bronze Member (Offline)

    Joined: Oct 14 2009

    Posts: 269

    It's a little late

    It's a little late for much of the country, but you can still plant certain things, especially if you have row covers, cloches, or a greenhouse.

    Also, arugula is another cool season salad green that germinates and grows really quick.

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  • Mon, Sep 05, 2016 - 4:52am


    edward charette

    Status Member (Offline)

    Joined: Jul 05 2016

    Posts: 5

    Fall Gardening

    Autumns temp is the right time for you to start off with spinach and lettuce. Consider succession plating. Fast growing salad crops will revive the most. Get the right timing and plan backwards starting with your areas average first fall frost date. Calculate harvest days needed for each plant. Check for the number on the seed packet. 

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  • Mon, Sep 05, 2016 - 11:16am



    Status Member (Offline)

    Joined: Sep 05 2016

    Posts: 2

    Thanks for useful tips! I

    Thanks for useful tips! I want to try my hand on gardening. I believe there's nothing better than growing your own vegetables. At least you know what you're eating.



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  • Mon, Sep 05, 2016 - 1:50pm


    Wendy S. Delmater

    Status Diamond Member (Offline)

    Joined: Dec 13 2009

    Posts: 1418

    great article!

    We love to grow daikon radishes in the fall. The greens are edible.

    Don't forget parsnips as a fall crop. We plant them in November here is SC and harvest them in February: they overwinter in our beds. Dragon's tongue kale and leeks, too.

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  • Tue, Sep 06, 2016 - 12:26pm

    Reply to #4

    Phil Williams

    Status Bronze Member (Offline)

    Joined: Oct 14 2009

    Posts: 269


    Thanks Wendy!

    That's interesting that down in SC you plant parsnips now for a February harvest. Here in zone 6 Pennsylvania, I let parsnips self-seed in the summer. I harvest in early spring- March/ April. If I wait too long into the spring, the parsnip quality goes down.

    Also, great idea on the daikon radishes.



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