The 10 Best Fall Garden Plants to Grow
Article Summary: Information about vegetables that grow well in the fall for hardiness zones 8-11 and 5-7 can be found in our overview below. A comprehensive look at ten vegetables, their growth rates, as well as an overview of the USDA hardiness zones to guide you through deciding which plants are best to grow in your fall garden.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published 8.29.15 and updated for fall 2019.
Fall is a beautiful season of changing colors, colder weather, and plants fortifying against the coming winter. Luckily for USDA hardiness zones 8-11, some of these natural events don’t occur except for a change in temperature. Thermometers drop from a balmy 98⁰ to a chilling 68⁰, a difference noticed mostly in the switch from tank tops to short sleeve shirts.
Of course the primary concern is, “Could it be too late to start my own garden?” Luckily, no. fall is not too late to start a garden. In fact, there are a variety of vegetables that thrive during the fall season, making fall a lesser known yet great time to grow.
For our friends concerned about potential frost ruining your fall garden plants, known that if you begin planting by September 29th then you can see a harvest as early as November 10th. That means home grown vegetables can be used in festive dinners, on kabobs at tailgates, or just to impress family and friends. Of course, starting your fall garden plants sooner gives you more flexibility when it comes to harvest timing. Being in Florida, we often plant our fall garden over a period of time, starting in mid-September.
If a surprise frost does present a concern for your fall garden, use these tips to combat the cold.
Find Your Hardiness Zones
The Hardiness Zones “are the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location. The map is based on the average annual low temperature, divided into 10-degree Fahrenheit zones” according to the USDA.
Gardening in Hardiness Zones 8-11
Zones 8-11 represent areas with annual average minimum temperatures of 10⁰-45⁰ F, which are great for fall gardening. These are found from the coasts of Washington and Oregon down through the coast of California, across the coasts of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, as well as most of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Florida is entirely made up of Zones 8-11 as well as central to southern Georgia and South Carolina.
There are six fast growing vegetables that thrive during the fall gardening season in zones 8-11:
TURNIPS: Wait 40-60 days until the first harvest. Turnips can be mashed, roasted, grilled, added to a hearty soup and they pair nicely with other root vegetables.
SUMMER SQUASH: While the name may be misleading, this subset of squash includes yellow summer, yellow crookneck, and zucchini that may be grown in the fall. The first harvest happens 40-55 days after planting, and they are known to be high in anti-oxidants. Squash may be grilled, sliced, mashed, made into bread, and put into a soup. The best way to preserve their nutritional value during preparation is to steam them
BROCCOLI: They can be harvested 75-90 days after planting. They can be used in soups, salads, or steamed and covered with cheese, but a great way to use home grown broccoli is to serve it fresh with some hummus or ranch.
BELL PEPPERS: Taking a little longer to mature, the first harvest can occur in 80-100 days. These wonderfully useful peppers come in radiant colors such as green, red, orange, and purple that also boast their own unique flavor profile. Bell peppers are known for their practicality in cooking, as there is almost no wrong way to prepare them.
POTATOES: These starchy tubers are vegetables. However, they are nutritionally classified as a starch as they are used in place of other starches such as bread, pasta, and rice. They are ready to harvest in 85-110 days.
PUMPKIN: It takes the longest to mature with the first harvest happening 90-120 days after planting. It is a cultivar (A plant variety that has been produced in cultivation by selective breeding) of the squash. They are great in breads, pies, soups, and made into “pumpkin rolls”.
Rustic is the most appropriate description of these vegetables. All of them are singularly versatile as well as work together. They are quick and simple to grow, look beautiful, taste delicious, and are healthy as well. Enjoy a fast and simple growing garden with these fall vegetables.
Gardening in Hardiness Zones 5-7
Planting a garden in the fall isn’t only for the temperate areas of the United States. Middle America, or zones 5-7, are prime for growing with the correct plants. August through November is full of opportunities to show off home grown vegetables with colorful and festive feasts.
Four veggies that will grow quickly in zones 5-7, and taste phenomenal include:
SPINACH: This very green and leafy super vegetable is ready for harvest in 40-50 days. 1 cup of cooked spinach (about 2 ½ cups raw) is an excellent source of nutrients providing the body over 100% of Vitamin K and A needed to protect from inflammatory problems, oxidative stress-related problems, cardiovascular risks, bone issues, and again prostate cancer.
BEETS: Harvest occurs at 50-65 days. The beet is a beautiful purple root with a variety of cooking options. Steamed, sliced, or boiled, this root adds earthy flavors to any meal. 1 cup of sliced beets eaten once or twice a week will protect you against heart disease, birth defects, and colon cancer as well.
CARROTS: It can be taken from the ground in 55-70 days. It is named for its rich supply of the antioxidant, beta-carotene. These are great raw, cooked, sliced, chopped, and steamed.
CAULIFLOWER: Ready for harvest in 55-60 days. It is used in many cancer prevention diets such as bladder, breast, colon, prostate, and ovarian cancers. Like its color, this vegetable is different than others because of the unique health-promoting compounds it carries. They affect three body systems that are closely connected to cancer prevention: the detox system, the antioxidant system, and the anti-inflammatory system.
Turn your Fall Garden Harvest into a Feast
Fall Vegetable Garden Recipes
Planting a garden involves more than finding the right plants for the season, but picking a group of vegetables that work together in a meal. Something to go with that heavy turkey and gravy on Thanksgiving is a Carrot, Cauliflower and Beet Salad with Orange Anise Dressing. It is a colorful, rustic salad lightly dressed with some zest that will have people talking at the dinner table. A fresh component usually complements a heavy Thanksgiving meal.
Another, involving more meat, is the Honey Turmeric Pork with Beet and Carrot Salad. This is a good balance of meat and vegetables in one recipe. The earthy flavors of these vegetables pair well with the succulence of a well prepared piece of pork. A healthy and balanced recipe is great for the body and for the holidays.
Spinach are prepared in a variety of methods. Salads, sandwiches, shakes, and sautée are the usual methods of intake. However, Spinach chips are a new and easy way to enjoy them. Using the ingredients olive oil, salt, and pepper to season, they are baked until dark and crispy. Spinach chips retain their nutritional benefits, taste delicious, and replace less healthy snack options. Whether for a tailgate or a lunch to go, these chips are gaining popularity and could be growing the product on a porch or backyard.
Zones 5-7 thrive with some of the most nutritious options to grow in the Fall season. The sooner planting commences, the sooner personally grown vegetables can be enjoyed in decadent yet simple recipes. It doesn’t matter where or when it is, there is always time to begin a garden.
Fall is a favorite time of year for growing at Garden In Minutes®. Theresa Traficante (Founder of GardenInMinutes) always grows pumpkins during the fall and uses them to make her pumpkin pie recipe for Thanksgiving – trust us it’s fantastic. If you’re growing anything this fall, share in the comments below. Fall is a lesser known season for gardening and we’re determined to change that!