Summer might be high season in the vegetable garden, but autumn also brings wonderful rewards. Fast-growing salad crops will revive the most bedraggled fall garden, and good care can keep sweet root crops and cabbage cousins growing for several weeks beyond the first frost. The tips below will help you extend your vegetable season long beyond the heat of summer.
The secret to having a great fall vegetable garden is getting the timing right. And that means thinking a little differently because you have to plan backward.
Start with your area's average first fall frost date. Then look at the number of days to harvest for each vegetable you wish to plant. You should be able to find that number on the seed packet, in the catalog description, or in our BHG.com Plant Encyclopedia. Use that number to count back from the first frost date. Then add two weeks because many plants grow more slowly as days shorten in fall
Want an example? If your first fall frost typically occurs around October 31 and you want to grow 'French Breakfast' radishes, which mature in about 25 days, you'd plant them around September 22.
Getting the Garden Ready
Make room for your fresh crop of fall plants by ripping out any varieties that are no longer performing well (such as tomatoes that have succumbed to disease or peas that have burned out from the heat) or you have already harvested (potatoes, onions, or sweet corn, for example). Pull any weeds, as well, so they don't steal moisture and nutrients from your young plants.
If your vegetable garden has a lot of clay in the soil, it's helpful to work in some organic matter, such as compost, to get your new plants off to a great start.