By Jodi Torpey
It’s possible to squeeze in three seasons of vegetable gardening, even in the Mountain region. All it takes is the desire to enjoy more garden-fresh vegetables, a calendar, some seeds, and a few vegetable transplants.
The same cool-season vegetables and leafy greens you planted in spring can be replanted and harvested in fall: radishes, peas, beets, carrots, Chinese cabbage and turnips. Greens grow in cool weather, too, so try spinach, lettuce, kale, mustard greens and Swiss chard.
Here are four tips for getting started on your fall vegetable garden:
Count the Days
The two dates to keep in mind are the average date for your area’s first fall frost, and the number of days to maturity for each planted vegetable variety. The average first frost date gives you the approximate number of growing days left in the year. To learn it, search online or check with your county’s extension office.
Then read seed packets and plant tags to select the varieties with the shortest number of days to maturity. Spinach, peas and some lettuces typically take less than 60 days from planting to harvest. To time your planting dates, count back from the first frost date and use the days to maturity.
Clear Garden Space
You need to make room for the fall vegetable garden, even though the summer garden is still growing.
Find garden space by pulling or digging up weeds, harvesting nonproductive summer crops, filling unused containers with potting soil and starting a new raised bed. Use a cultivator or hand tool to dig the soil to about 6–8 inches, then add organic matter such as compost. Follow the planting instructions for each vegetable variety. Water after planting.
If temperatures are still high, a layer of mulch helps regulate soil temperature and maintain soil moisture. Water as needed to keep seeds and soil moist.
When selecting vegetable varieties, look for smaller types that have higher likelihoods of maturing before the first frost hits. Baby carrots, baby beets, and miniature Napa cabbage take less time to mature than their larger relatives.
Even if some vegetables don’t reach full size, you can harvest and enjoy them while they’re still small. Others, for example parsnips, taste even sweeter after they’ve been exposed to frosty weather.
Plant something you’ve never grown before, maybe kohlrabi. Look for fast-growing varieties of this odd-looking vegetable to add interest.
Other intriguing vegetable fall choices include broccoli raab and Egyptian onions. Those are also called winter onions or perennial onions, and they grow again next season.
Which fall-harvest vegetables do you intend to plant in your Mountain region garden?
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