Most people think of summer when they think of fresh vegetables, but fall and winter have their own star players. There are benefits to planting fall and winter vegetables, too, such as:
* Fresh produce later in the season
* Soil enrichment and increased soil fertility
* Groundcover, which means less mud and mess with fall and winter precipitation
* Saving money during a time of year when produce prices increase in grocery stores
The key is knowing what to plant and when to plant it. Here is a brief guide to help those in temperate regions get started this season.
Find out when the first frost generally occurs in your region. While the exact date will likely be impossible to predict, you should be able to find a ballpark estimate. In Southern regions, there may not be a killing frost expected at all. In more northerly temperate climates, the first killing frost usually occurs in mid- to late October.
Once you find out the average frost date, plan your fall and winter planting so that your plants mature before frost time.
Deep mulch is essential in frosty climates. Mulch protects the plants’ roots from freezing, holds in moisture, and increases the richness of the soil. In spring, it can be tilled into the soil to help increase fertility.
What and When to Plant?
So what do you plant, and when do you plant it? Here are some guidelines.
1. Early-Maturing Plants
These plants generally reach maturity in about 30 days, so count backward from your frost date and plant accordingly. For example, if your average frost date is in late October, you should plant these crops in mid- to late September. Some early-maturing crops include:
* Mustard greens
* Lettuce (leaf varieties)
* Cover crops, such as clover
2. Crops for the Mid-Season
Crops that mature in 60 days or so can be planted in mid-August (going by the late October average frost date). Some suggestions for what to plant include:
* Carrots (the early variety)
* Collard greens
* Cabbage (early varieties)
* Swiss Chard
If you grow herbs, many of them mature in 60 days. You can sow perennial herbs in mid-August for a fall harvest.
3. Late-Season Crops
These take the longest to mature, 90 days, and should be sown in mid-July to beat a late October frost. Some vegetables that fit this description include:
* Globe onions
* Fava beans
* Brussels sprouts
With a little planning, you can enjoy fresh vegetables late into the season. And it’s much more pleasant to harvest vegetables when it’s not so hot out!