We are solidly into fall, nearing the end of October: Duhn duhn duhn, cue the spooky music. In the summer months there is such a rush of energy, color, and aliveness that at some point it seems unreal that fall and winter are ahead. In the midst of the heat, it feels that summer must be endless. To spice things up, we’ve gathered for you our favourite vegetables to plant in the fall. Read on!
Our plants can be the first to remind us through their acute perception that days are indeed getting shorter, temperatures dropping, seasons changing. It can be hard as we watch our summer harvest come to a close, with thoughts of a veggie-less and green-less winter filling our minds. But this fall can be different, because there are plants that want to be planted right now. Gardening doesn’t have to stop. Seize this time to plant some seeds and remind yourself that your garden will come alive once again.
Planting vegetables in the fall is smart because with some species you will have something growing all winter and with others, you will have an early harvest in the spring. A lot of fall vegetables can feel uninspiring (think potato, onion, carrot). So here you are presented with some more unusual vegetables to plant in the fall, ready to add pizzazz to your garden and kitchen.
Chinese Chives (Allium tuberosum)
Those who appreciate a crisp bite and mild onion flavor, love “regular” chives. But have you ever heard of Chinese Chives, sometimes called Garlic Chives? They have a mild garlic flavor instead, making them a great addition to anything, well, anything to which you might want to add a mild garlic flavor (that’s pretty much everything for me). The white flowers are also beautiful, edible, and can have a stronger garlic taste.
Minimum temperature: It will initially grow between 40° and 85°F (4.44°C and 29.44°C). Once established, this species can survive temperatures of -35°F (-37°C).
How to grow Chinese Chives:
Plant: If living in a mild climate, seeds can be planted in the fall in well-draining soil. Plant seeds ¼ of an inch (0.64 cm) deep, with one to two seeds per inch (2.5 cm). This species prefers full sun but will keep its head held high in a little shade.
Care: Keep the soil moist through regular watering.
Harvest: Shoots will emerge sometime in late winter/early spring, and once the chives are larger, they can be cut at their base. This species is a perennial, and once established, clumps should be split to promote growth. If you let the flowers go to seed, they have the potential to rapidly spread, so cut the flowers off earlier if this is undesired.
Elephant Garlic (Allium ampelopramus)
Continuing with the mild garlic theme, Elephant Garlic looks like your typical garlic but is, you guessed it, bigger. Interestingly, it is actually more closely related to a leek than garlic, and usually alternates yearly between producing cloves and one large bulb (picture a giant, round clove). The flavor is less pungent than typical garlic, and it therefore is great for adding directly into salads, dressings, etc. and for using as a roasted vegetable. If you’re looking for a vegetables to plant in the fall that will surprise you, this is it!
Minimum temperature: There is no hard minimum for this species, as it is recommended in hardiness zones 4-9, with zone 4 tolerating temperatures to -34°F (-37°C). It will do better if given some time to create a strong root system before temperatures really drop, so planting in fall is best.
How to grow Elephant Garlic:
Plant: It is best to plant this species between September and November in an area that receives full sun. Bury cloves about 5 inches (13 cm) deep and 8-12 inches (20-30 cm) apart. It is important that the soil has good drainage, because if it is too wet the bulbs will rot.
Care: Water regularly, but let the soil dry out in between waterings so that it does not become waterlogged. Weeding is also important so that any weed’s roots are not competing with the growing bulb.
Harvest: They will be ready for harvest in late spring/early summer. Scapes (the plant’s way of flowering) emerge first. Cut these off (they are also delicious, especially in pesto), and let the plants continue to grow until the leaves turn brown. Smaller plants are more likely to have a bulb instead of cloves, so only pull up the larger plants, leaving the smaller ones for the next year. If you do pull up a bulb, do not fret because it is still edible! However, you could also replant it, and it will most likely split into cloves the following year.
Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes)
Kohlrabi is definitely our favourite vegetables to plant in the fall. A funky, fun looking vegetable, it is cold-tolerant and is extremely versatile when it comes to consuming it. It can be eaten raw, with a taste somewhere between radish and turnip (others say close to broccoli), or cooked in any number of ways – pureed, roasted, steamed, whatever is your favorite. It even improves in taste, becoming sweeter, when growing in colder conditions. Kohlrabi can be planted in the fall for a winter harvest if you live in a milder climate. It’s optimal growing temperature is in the 60’s (°F) / (15-21°C), but it will tolerate frost and lower temperatures.
Minimum temperature: 15 °F (-9.5°C).
How to grow Kohlrabi:
Plant: This unique veggie should be grown in full sun (but it can tolerate light shade) and well drained, composted soil. Plant seeds about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart and then thin seedlings to about 8 inches (20 cm) so that they have space to grow into their full expression. If in a container, only leave one seedling per container.
Care: Adding additional compost a couple times while it is growing will be beneficial as kohlrabi takes up a lot of nutrients. Water regularly, keeping the soil moist.
Harvest: The part you harvest seems like an above-ground bulb, but it is actually the swollen stem. Cut this just at the base, right above the soil, when it is around the size of a tennis ball. The greens are also edible; they can be cooked and eaten as you would cabbage.
Broad Beans (Vicia faba)
Also called Fava beans, this cool-weather loving plant has been grown for thousands of years, and has even been found in Egyptian tombs. They are large and leafy, with some varieties growing up to 7 feet (2.1 m) tall. No worries to those of you with limited space, there’s also 2-footer (60 cm) varieties. The stalks are sturdy and grow straight up, unlike some other bean species that are climbers.
Minimum temperature: 40°F (4.5°C), but can usually survive a short and light frost.
How to grow Broad Beans:
Plant: When planted in the fall these beans can take about eight months to mature, so they are perfect for creating a beautiful, bean-y spring. Sow the seeds about 2 inches (5 cm) deep, 2 inches (13 cm) apart, in rich, well-draining soil. Full sun to partial shade is preferred.
Care: Plan on adding stakes as they begin to grow, depending on their size. Even the smaller plants have heavy beans that could cause drupage and need stake-age. Let the soil dry out in between waterings, except when they are flowering and when pods are forming. At these stages they will require more water.
Harvest: Around eight months, keep a watchful eye on the pods and harvest them before they begin to dry out. If they are not the most tender, cook them before eating. If they are tender, simply pick them when they feel full-ish and pop them, pod and all, in your dying-for-fresh-veggies mouth!
Radicchio (Cichorium intybus var. foliosum)
The burgundy color of radicchio looks beautiful in a salad and even more beautiful when it’s a salad in the middle of winter. There are also endless ways to cook it, and if you search for it on social media you will see how many people are inspired by using its color in dishes. It has a slightly bitter flavor, which like arugula some love and some hate, but if you have never had it it is totally worth a grow and a taste.
Minimum temperature: 27°F (-3°C)
How to grow Radicchio:
Plant: This is a very frost-tolerant plant, even becoming sweeter with a few frosts. Sow seeds in well-composted soil about half an inch (1 cm) deep and 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. When seedlings emerge, thin to 6 inches (15 cm) apart. As with kohlrabi, if planting in a pot it is probably best to thin to one per pot.
Care: Water regularly, keeping the soil most, and stay on top of weeding as weeds can easily take over the small radicchio heads.
Harvest: To harvest, simply cut off the head at ground level, just like lettuce. Sizes can vary, but also base this on the size of a head of lettuce. And then go inside and enjoy some freshness in the middle of winter.
Hopefully you are feeling inspired by our top 5 vegetables to plant in the fall. And of course this is only the beginning, there are lots of options for fun fall vegetables. Having even one veggie growing as we enter into winter brings a sense of happiness, hope, and renewal. Whether it is something that can be enjoyed in six weeks or won’t be ready until we’re well into spring, the act of continued sowing and growing can brighten up a whole winter.