Fall Vegetable Gardens

Jump to: Broccoli | Brussels Sprouts | Cabbage | Cauliflower

Ideally gardeners should start preparing for fall right around the summer solstice, if not before if you live in an area with a short growing season.  In most areas planting should take place from July through August to allow for plenty of time for seeds and plants to grow and mature before the first autumn freeze.  

The average date of the first killing frost in your area is the most important thing to know when it comes to fall vegetable gardening.  Your local garden center is a good source of information for this date.  To determine when to start planting, find out the number of days to maturity for the vegetable. Next, count back the number of days from the first average frost date.  Some people add a week or so to allow for a few extra days to harvest the produce once it’s mature. You will find maturity information on seed packets and some plant labels.  

Most everything you plant in spring you can grow in your fall garden, too.  These are cool season plants, meaning they will tolerate a light frost, thrive in short daylight hours and perform best with mild temperatures.  Some vegetables even taste better when nipped by a light frost.

10 Plants for Your Fall Vegetable Garden

Broccoli - Broccoli seedlings should be planted 10 weeks before the first frost date in your area. This means planting them during the last hot summer days so it's important to mulch around them to help keep the ground cool and moist. Feed the plants 3 weeks after transplanting into the garden. Use a low nitrogen fertilizer. 70 days to maturity. Broccoli is high in vitamin C and dietary fiber. It also contains multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties, such as diindolylmethane (DIM) and small amounts of selenium.[9][unreliable medical source?] A single serving provides more than 30 mg of vitamin C and a half-cup provides 52 mg of vitamin C.[10] DIM is a potent modulator of the innate immune response system with anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer activity.

Brussels Sprouts – Brussels sprouts are ideal for fall gardens because they really taste best when allowed to mature in cool weather. In my mid-South garden, summer comes too quickly to grow them in the spring garden. Set the plants out in mid-summer. It will take about 3 months before the sprouts appear. They are ready for harvest when they are firm and green. 90 days to maturity. Brussels sprouts are a cultivar group of the same species as cabbage, in the same family as collard greens, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi; they are cruciferous (they belong to the Brassicaceae family; old name Cruciferae). Many cultivars are available, some being purple in colour, such as 'Ruby Crunch' or 'Red Bull'.

Cabbage – Plant seedlings 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost. If the heat of summer is still intense when it's time to plant in your area, give the young plants protection from sun. Cabbages are heavy feeders that require fertile soil rich in organic matter and consistent moisture. 70 days to maturity. Many shapes, colors and leaf textures are found in various cultivated varieties of cabbage. Leaf types are generally divided between crinkled-leaf, loose-head savoys and smooth-leaf firm-head cabbages, while the color spectrum includes white and a range of greens and purples. Oblate, round and pointed shapes are found. Cabbages are prepared in many different ways for eating. They can be pickled, fermented for dishes such as sauerkraut, steamed, stewed, sautéed, braised, or eaten raw.

Cauliflower - Plant seedlings 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost. Cauliflower can be tricky to grow. Rich soil and consistent watering are the keys. Fluctuations in temperature, moisture and nutrients can cause the plant to "button" or produce small, undersized heads. Blanch the heads by tying the outer leaves together over the heads when they are about 2 to 3 inches across. This keeps them from turning green and becoming bitter. 60 days to maturity. While cauliflower is not a well-studied cruciferous vegetable from a health standpoint, you will find several dozen studies linking cauliflower-containing diets to cancer prevention, particularly with respect to the following types of cancer: bladder cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer.  Back to top

For new gardeners, the first thing to sort out is the average date of the last Spring frost for your planting zone. Missouri gardeners can find a chart on the MU Extension Web site.  This will give you a rough idea of when your spring planting season begins.