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Planting a Fall Garden

Updated on September 8, 2018

Summer is coming to an end, the nights are getting chilly, and our vegetable garden is running out of steam here in Zone 5. Thankfully, the fall season is a great time to plant cold weather crops that we are able to preserve and save for eating our vegetables throughout the winter months!

What is my Plant Hardiness Zone?

This plant hardiness zone map is available to growers and farmers as a guide to help them dictate which pants are most likely to thrive in a given location.
This plant hardiness zone map is available to growers and farmers as a guide to help them dictate which pants are most likely to thrive in a given location. | Source

The Best Time to Plant a Fall Garden

Here in New Hampshire, fall temperatures start to set in at about the beginning of September. August is the month for harvesting all of our summer crops, while in the meantime, our fall garden is just beginning.

Deciding when to start your fall garden all depends on the specific things you are trying to grow. For example, radishes are a very fast growing vegetable (only taking about 30-35 days to mature), whereas carrots take a longer time to grow (usually around 70-80 days). Therefore, when thinking about what to plant, you want to make sure that you have just the right amount of time available to be able to harvest your fall crops before any harsh frosts come through.

In our opinion, going by the information that is on the back of your seed packet is your best bet. The information for fall planting/sowing on these packets is completely based off of your first frost date, and from there it will tell you how many weeks ahead of this date you should sow your seeds. It should also give you other details such as if you should sow your seeds inside in flats or if you should direct sow. Different types of seeds require different amounts of care.

Please see below for some examples of this.

Information on the Back of a Seed Packet

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This is the back of a Winterbor kale seed packet we received from Johnny's Selected Seeds located in Albion, ME. This is the back of a Chinese Red Meat radish seed packet that we recieved from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company located in Mansfield, MO.
This is the back of a Winterbor kale seed packet we received from Johnny's Selected Seeds located in Albion, ME.
This is the back of a Winterbor kale seed packet we received from Johnny's Selected Seeds located in Albion, ME. | Source
This is the back of a Chinese Red Meat radish seed packet that we recieved from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company located in Mansfield, MO.
This is the back of a Chinese Red Meat radish seed packet that we recieved from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company located in Mansfield, MO. | Source

Best Vegetables for a Fall Garden

Ideally, we wish we could plant some more tomato seeds or cucumber seeds when our mature plants are done giving us their bounty, but unfortunately, they would not survive the cold long enough to bear any fruit. Instead, we plant the following seeds at their respective sowing date in order to get a harvest before winter!

Our favorite fall crops include:

  • kale
  • carrots
  • radishes
  • spinach
  • cabbage
  • beets
  • garlic (we overwinter these, i.e. plant in the fall and harvest in the spring)
  • onion (we also over winter these)
  • leeks
  • lettuce

There are so many options out there when it comes to deciding what to plant for your fall garden. Do not think that your favorite summer hobby is over just because colder weather is coming. The second season has just begun!

Fall Radishes

Fall radishes planted in September; 1 week after direct sowing.
Fall radishes planted in September; 1 week after direct sowing. | Source

How to Extend your Growing Season

For most of us here in the northern states, frost is an extremely limiting factor when it comes to growing in the spring and even the fall. Establishing a fabric row cover is both an easy and inexpensive solution to extending your season.

This year we decided to get an early start on planting our radishes, spinach, and kale. We direct sowed all of these right into our raised beds. We then decided to install a fabric row cover. The specific one that we bought is very light weight and provides a frost protection of up to 28°F while still allowing a transmission of light of to 85%. (We will include the link to this cover below). We only used a fraction of the fabric for one 4x8 raised bed. We will get several more covers out of the rest of the fabric we have leftover.

This row cover was super easy to set up (along with a little bit of PEX piping), and allowed us to plant our fall crops earlier without them bolting. This cover will also allow our veggies to stay in the ground for a longer period of time because they will be protected from harsh temperatures and frost will not be a problem for them.

Row Cover on Raised Bed

Radishes, carrots, and kale direct sowed in our raised bed on August 19th and topped with our Agfabric row cover. White PEX piping and clamps were used to hold this cover in place.
Radishes, carrots, and kale direct sowed in our raised bed on August 19th and topped with our Agfabric row cover. White PEX piping and clamps were used to hold this cover in place. | Source

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