I know, I know…. But it is still summer! But now is the time to get your fall vegetable garden growing before Mother Nature sends the first frost. Of course frost dates vary depending on where you live, but here in Michigan, with our shorter growing season, we are already looking down the barrel of Old Man Winter’s gun. We have a 50% chance of our first frost hitting the first week of October, so it’s do or die time for us. You on the other hand may still have plenty of time to think and plan.
Don’t know when your frost dates are? No problem! There are many websites that offer up both spring and fall frost dates. You can also look yours up by your zip code in the good old Farmer’s Almanac.
So the big question is, what do you put in a fall garden? Easy answer, colder temp loving veggies and plants that are hardy. But which veggies fall into that category? Well here are a few for you to think about……
Broccoli – It is ideal to plant broccoli seedlings about 10 weeks before the first frost date in your area. Yup, that means planting them during the last hot summer days. Because these are cooler temperature loving plants, it’s important to mulch around them to help keep the ground cool and moist till the temperature drops. Broccoli takes around 70 days to reach maturity.
Cauliflower – These seedlings can be planted just 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost, so they are a great addition to a last minute fall garden. Cauliflower can be a little tricky to grow because they need good soil and lots of watering, but give em a try! Cauliflower takes around 60 day to reach maturity.
Radish – These are great for a fall garden, with a short growing time needed. You can sow seeds for radishes just 4 weeks before the first frost. Try to sow them evenly so you don’t have to bother with thinning. You don’t even have to fertilize radishes a long as you plant them in good soil with proper drainage. Radishes are ready to harvest as soon as they are of edible size, around 25 to 50 days depending on variety.
Cabbage – Just like cauliflower, cabbage seedlings need to be planted 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost. And just like broccoli, they need protection from those last days of summer heat. See a theme going on here? These plants all thrive in the cooler weather! Cabbage does require lots of moisture and fertile soil rich in organic material. It will take around 70 days before your cabbage is ready to be harvested.
Lettuce – This is the fall show stopper for me. It grows fast and provides those last bites of summer freshness but in the fall! Most varieties of lettuce take around 45-60 day to reach harvest, so just count backwards from your first frost date for planting. Lettuce likes moisture and shade. Those blazing afternoon sunbeams are not their friends in the last days of summer, so plant your lettuce where they will get shade in the afternoon.
Spinach – I love spinach and the seeds only needs to be sowed 5 weeks before first frost date! The short days and cool, moist weather of fall are ideal condition for spinach. And get this, your mature spinach patch can survive temperatures down into the 20’s!! High in iron and a rocking fall garden veggie! Make sure your spinach is planted in fertile soil, because they need good soil to be so awesome. Spinach is usually mature around 45 days.