Many people think that after the warm season is over, garden activities must end. But that’s not true because there are many fall edible plants.
In fact, there are plenty of vegetables that can be planted in the cooler temperatures of fall and that will allow you to have a harvest of fresh vegetables during the winter season.
There are some advantages to planting in the fall: the soil is still warm, there are fewer pests than in the hot season, can yield an early spring crop, and it usually rains more, so you won’t have to worry as much about watering.
The best vegetables to plant in the fall are the ones that mature quickly and are tolerant to cold temperatures and frosts.
The species may vary based on the climate, but in general, it’s a great time of the year to plant greens, perennials, shrubs, and spring bulbs. The possibilities are endless.
- Related article: Wild Plants You Can Eat
Below are the 11 best vegetables to plant in the fall. For exact planting times, you should reference guides about your local area, as they can vary greatly from north to south.
1. Kale (Brassica Oleracea)
Kale can be planted in late summer in most parts of the country. Depending on the variety, you might be able to harvest it in the fall already.
In the southern parts of the United States, you can keep planting throughout the fall.
Kale is very resistant to cold, so you can leave it in your garden during the winter. At the first signs of spring, it will start growing new leaves very quickly.
This plant needs full sun to thrive, but it can tolerate partial shade. To help kale give its best, enrich the soil with compost and apply mulching around the plants.
This green vegetable is best eaten raw to take full advantage of its many beneficial nutrients. If you don’t enjoy it in salads, consider plucking some crisp kale and making some fruit smoothies with it.
Kale is especially rich in folate, manganese, and vitamins A, C, and B6. It also contains good amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, vitamin E, and several minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.
2. White Cabbage (Brassica Oleracea Var Capitata)
White cabbage is also sometimes called Dutch cabbage and is the same species as broccoli and kale, just a different variety.
As for most plants of the Brassicaceae family, white cabbage exists in different kinds, based on the time of harvesting: spring cabbage, planted in August-September; the summer variety planted from January to May; and the winter one in May-June. In the fall, white cabbage can be planted directly outside as it thrives in cooler weather with plenty of rainfall.
White cabbage should be harvested before the head starts to open. It’s one of the healthiest vegetables in its family, as it’s an extremely good source of vitamins C and K.
White cabbage can be eaten raw, or finely sliced. It tastes pleasantly sweet and crunchy, with a hint of spice.
But don’t be fooled by the name, this cabbage is only white on the inside, while the outer leaves are light green.
3. Chicory (Cichorium Intybus)
There are innumerable varieties of chicory, adapted to be planted throughout the year.
They tolerate a wide variety of climates and conditions so that you can be sure there is at least one you can plant wherever you are.
The only aspect to be careful about is the soil drainage, as chicory doesn’t survive with stagnant water.
Chicory can be cut just above ground multiple times and it will form new leaves.
Cultivated chicory belongs to the same species as wild chicory. They are both rich in vitamins A, B, C, and K, as well as manganese.
The cultivated one has larger, sweeter leaves that can be eaten raw in salads. The more bitter varieties can be blanched to obtain tender white leaves that taste sweeter.
The process is different based on the kind of chicory but basically, the leaves need to be kept in a dark place for a while, sometimes under a layer of soil or straw.
4. Valerian (Valerianella Olitaria)
Not to be confused with Valeriana Officinalis, which is a medicinal plant, valerian produces small rosettes adapted to resist cold weather.
It can be cultivated in the open during the winter months, providing a simple shelter.
For this plant to thrive, the less you work the soil the better, to preserve the soil quality. It prefers humid soils rich with clay.
If where you live you get winter frosts, it’s best to protect the soil by mulching with straw or other materials.
When harvesting, remove the entire plant, once it’s big enough. Pick just the amount you will consume in a day or two, as it tends to wither quickly.
Valerian greens are great in salads, while the root has been traditionally used to treat sleep disorders, anxiety, and stress. In some states, valerian is considered an invasive species, as it can spread very quickly.
5. Spinach (Spinacea Oleracea)
Spinach is a plant that thrives in cool weather, as it doesn’t tolerate heat, droughts, or too much sunlight.
Choose a variety that can be planted in the fall, as there are others that should be grown in the spring.
The right soil for spinach is rich in organic matter and well-drained. This vegetable is ready to be picked after 12 weeks from planting. It can be harvested whole or you can regularly cut the outer leaves.
Spinach can be used in a wide variety of recipes, not only as a side dish. Try it in savory pies, gnocchi, omelets, and as pizza toppings.
The younger leaves are very tender and perfect as a salad. Spinach is a good source of essential vitamins A, C, and K, and of the minerals iron, magnesium, and manganese.
6. Potato (Solanum Tuberosum)
Potatoes are very adaptable, but they give their best in temperate climates. Winter frosts could damage the leaves and slow the growth of the tubers.
To thrive, they need rich soils with plenty of potassium and phosphorus. Potatoes also need soft soils that don’t offer resistance to underground growth.
They can be planted almost all year long, depending on the climate of your area. Some people use the normal potatoes you buy at the grocery store, and they will grow.
Still, it’s best to purchase ones grown especially for planting purposes, because they are resistant to viruses.
Potatoes are ready to be harvested when the leaves start drying.
These tubers have been a staple food for many populations, as they are rich in starch. In addition, they contain good amounts of vitamins C and B6.
7. Garlic (Allium Sativum)
Garlic is one of the easiest plants to grow. It thrives in dry, temperate climates with plenty of sunlight.
Be careful to avoid very moist soils, or the bulbs could rot. Fresh manure is also to be avoided.
In the southern areas, garlic can be planted from October to November, while in the colder climates it should be planted in the winter. After harvesting in early summer, you can store garlic for months.
Garlic is reputed as a traditional remedy for many illnesses, but so far these properties haven’t been scientifically proven.
Apart from the bulbs, the leaves are also edible. There are many varieties of garlic that can be found in the wild which are also edible. These usually have smaller bulbs and a milder flavor.
8. Radishes (Raphanus Raphanistrum Subsp Sativus)
Radishes are from the cabbage family and are some of the easiest vegetables to grow.
They can be planted in early fall and are ready to be eaten a few weeks after. They grow well in cooler areas with plenty of sun.
There are many varieties of radishes, with different root shapes, colors, and time of maturity. Some kinds should be planted during the spring, so be careful which one you’re buying.
When picked at the right time, radishes are crunchy and tasty. Avoid waiting too long, or the root could break.
Radishes are great in hypocaloric diets, as they are 95% water.
They are mostly eaten raw and finely sliced, but the tougher ones can be boiled or steamed.
9. Sage (Salvia Officinalis)
Sage is a perennial herb that can be planted all year long, but the best time is the fall. This plant is native to warmer climates, but it adapts well to cool weather.
In the most rigid climates, it’s best to move it indoors during the winter, as repeated frosts could damage it because of the cool temperatures.
Sage is very rustic and doesn’t require much care, nor much water.
To harvest, you can either pick a few leaves from the top of the branches whenever you need them or cut larger amounts in the spring to dry and store for later use.
Sage is an essential herb that is traditionally used in many dishes in Italian and Middle Eastern cuisine. It releases the most flavor when fried in butter and paired with gnocchi or fresh pasta dishes.
10. Mint (Mentha Species)
Mint is very hardy and can be planted almost all year long. It can be either part of your garden plants or kept in vases.
This last solution might be best, as mint is known to spread very quickly. If it’s not carefully controlled, it could easily overtake your garden greens. Despite this risk, many people choose to grow it next to their vegetables, as its essence keeps away many parasites.
Mint gives its best in warm temperate climates on dry soil. With these conditions, it becomes the most aromatic.
Mint leaves taste fresh and warm at the same time and can be used in teas, cold drinks, candies, and Indian curries.
Mint leaves can be picked during the warm season. If you want to collect large amounts to dry, the best time to do it is in June.
11. Common Marigold (Calendula Officinalis)
Common marigold is from the same family of pansies. It’s not to be confused with other similar flowers with the same common name, that is actually from the genus Tagetes.
Common marigold grows in the wild in many warm temperate regions, but it’s not very common in the United States.
It can be easily grown though and prefers plenty of sun. It’s a perennial plant, but it is often treated as an annual because it doesn’t survive extreme cold or hot temperatures.
Marigold flowers are not only beautiful, with their bright orange or yellow color, but they’re also edible.
You can try them raw in salads, use them for tea, or to color dishes instead of saffron. This plant contains many carotenoids and also has cosmetic uses.
Best Vegetables to Plant in the Fall Final Thoughts
Planting and growing vegetables in the fall is a great idea because it gives you plenty of time to prepare the soil and plant seeds. This means that you won’t have to worry about having to buy plants and seed packets. Instead, you can focus on preparing the ground and planning your garden layout.
Of course, you’ll want to choose varieties that grow quickly and thrive in your climate. The list of vegetables above can be planted in cooler temperatures of fall and that will allow you to have an abundant harvest of fresh vegetables during the autumn months.
Be sure to check out these other articles for more on edible plants: