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Fall Vegetable Garden: Organic Produce For Winter

Updated on February 13, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Why Fall?

Here in Texas it is near 100 degrees on this August day. In some ways much too hot to be thinking of a fall garden yet in others, time is almost here to plant for late autumn and early winter harvest. Where I am it is suggested that everything be in the ground by September first. We have a full season as our first frost date is November 15 and this gives me plenty of time for most anything I want to grow except maybe eggplant and okra which require hot, summer conditions. In other parts of the country you will need to check with your County Extension Agent to see what vegetables and plants grow best in the seasonal garden.

Fall planting is great because there is more rain, cooler temperatures and the sun is less potent than in the summer. I will be able to plant lettuces, spinach, green beans, beets, just about anything I want and easily harvest it before it freezes.

There are fewer pests in the fall, so less need to keep an eye out for caterpillars chomping the leaves of my beets. The squash bugs that cause havoc in the summer are gone in the fall...and because of that my plants flourish.

Fall Vegetable Gardening Tips

There are few differences between the fall garden and the spring garden. The soil has usually all ready been worked and has had compost added. Don't plant the same plants in the same areas but use the fall garden to compliment the spring garden so that your soil remains healthy.

With some of the more delicate plants, like tomatoes, you may want to use container gardening methods so that if you have a bit of cold weather early on you can easily move the plants to the house, garage, or barn. Herbs are good candidates for container gardening and many can be grown all winter on a sunny windowsill.

If you want to have some tomato plants you can try to get them to produce before frost. You may be able to manage it if you live in zones 7-10. You can actually take a cutting from a tomato plant and root it and grow a plant quickly that way since most garden centers won't have the plants and it is too late to grow them from seed.

If you start by September first you should be able to harvest green beans, cucumber, and zucchini before a freeze, providing your first frost date is after November 1. It is especially important to get the vegetables in as soon as you can now because every day is one day closer to cold weather.

Consider building a small greenhouse. Plans are available on the Internet as well as companies that sell inexpensive kits.

Cold Hardy Vegetable Plants

If you are planting cold hardy plants you can be a bit more relaxed. There are plants that thrive in the cooler temperatures of Autumn. It is important to choose heirloom varieties when possible as we have lost 92& of our heirloom varieties of vegetables in the last century. Biodiversity is much more important than we ever thought for hardy, healthy vegetables! Some Heirloom varieties for the fall garden are:

Lettuce- black seeded simpson, Lolita, Deer Tongue

Spinach-bloomsdale long standing,Monstrueux De Viroflay

Turnips-Amber globe, purple top milan, white egg


Peas-Mammoth Melting Sugar

Broccoli-de cicco

Cauliflower-violetta italia (purple!!), giant of Naples, Green Macerata (green!)

Snow Peas-Golden Sweet

Cabbage-Jersey Wakefield , Mammoth Red Rock

Brussels Sprouts-Long Island Improved

This list is by no means complete! With the convenience of the Internet you can find all kinds of unusual heirlooms seeds .

Getting The Most From the Fall Home Garden

By using container planting and planning to utilize row cover techniques you can extend the harvest into the colder months. If frost is forecast cover your plants with clear plastic to trap heat that comes from the ground. You can use plastic thrown over a lawn chair that covers the plant, or even a cardboard box. Using lots of compost and mulch will help with maintaining warm soil conditions as well. Be sure that your plants are well watered and protected from cold winds.

Green tomatoes that are beginning to turn white/pink can be ripened off the vine by wrapping in newspaper and storing for a few days. If you have a freeze int he forecast just pick the green tomatoes and use them in any number of delicious dishes!

Be sure and allow some plants to go to seed so you can collect and store the seed for your spring garden and start the process over again.


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    • Inquilab profile image

      Inquilab 6 years ago

      Good tips... thanks

    • profile image

      Ashlea B 7 years ago

      This is our first year attempting a garden. We'll see how we do... I'm sure we made some beginner mistakes. But, I love how fall gardening can give us a second chance (if some didn't work) or another round (if they did work). I'll be bookmarking this hub, so I can read it again as the end of summer approaches. Thanks!

    • laughing loon profile image

      Lynda -Bailey 7 years ago from South Los Angeles

      Great HUb! Fall is my favorite time of year. We are hot in So. California too, and alot of my plants come back after the heat starts to leave and my tomatoes and peppers will bloom again. Plants like peas and lettuce do very well too.

    • Patsybell profile image

      Patsy Bell Hobson 7 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

      I love to squeeze out every bit of the growing season that my garden can give. Thanks for the encouragement. I will try this method.

    • profile image

      container vegetable gardening 7 years ago

      Thanks for all the tips.

    • jvillan profile image

      jvillan 8 years ago

      do you have a website?

    • profile image

      Sending Flowers online 10 years ago

      Great piece of information one can use any day. Thanks for this.

    • firefly07 profile image

      firefly07 10 years ago from UK

      great hub and good insight into gardening in a different part of the world.

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 10 years ago from France

      Very good tips. I will certaily follow them!


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