By Julie Martens Forney
Autumn’s arrival kicks off a busy time in the vegetable garden. Fall vegetables need plenty of attention, from harvesting to watering to planting. Start your autumn-edible crop chores by checking on kale.
Sown from seed in early spring, Dwarf Blue Curled Vates kale, pictured above, holds its own in ornamental beds by early fall. Kale offers fresh eats long past frost. Keep leaves whole and caterpillar-free by applying anti-cabbage-worm Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) sprays through early autumn—or as long as you see white cabbage moths fluttering around plants. Discover other fall vegetable chores with the following month-by-month guide:
Fall Vegetable Checklist: September
Harvest late potatoes, such as Kennebec and Katahdin, when leaves and stems die back. Time your harvest between fall rains. Potatoes are easier to lift from dry soil. Use a garden fork to gently pry tubers from beds. Brush loose soil gently from potatoes, then place spuds—dirt and all—in a spot that’s roughly 55°F and has high humidity. After a couple weeks, you can shift to long-term storage: a dark, cool spot close to 40 degrees.
Water Brussels sprouts as needed to encourage a lengthy fall harvest. Start picking sprouts as soon as they’re large enough to eat. But if you can, wait until after frost, which sweetens sprouts significantly. Spray Bt as necessary if cabbage worms still munch leaves.
Fall Vegetable Checklist: October
Cure winter squashes by storing them for 10 to 14 days in a warm spot with good air circulation. This includes pumpkins, butternut, spaghetti, Blue Hubbard and Marina di Chioggia squash. Curing drives off excess moisture from winter squash, helping it store longer and reducing rot. Curing also concentrates sugars, which transform a Marina di Chioggia winter squash into the ideal ingredient for Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.
Plant garlic in late October or early November. Work plenty of organic matter into garlic beds prior to planting. Plant cloves about 2 inches deep. Before the ground freezes, apply a thick mulch layer of chopped leaves or straw.
Fall Vegetable Checklist: November
Continue to harvest kale. Tuscan kale is tough as nails and shrugs off hard frosts. I took this photo of Tuscan kale on the morning following a 23°F night. Count on Tuscan kale for fresh greens long after the garden has been put to bed.
Fall offers a second lease on life for many edible gardens. Sometimes it’s even better for growing vegetables than summer. See what you can grow this autumn.Learn More