Search
Close this search box.

Planting for a Fall Harvest

Get more from your vegetable garden by planting for a fall harvest. A wide variety of vegetables can be planted now and will be ready to enjoy when the temperatures cool down. Knowing which crops are the best to plant mid to late summer in our region will set you up for a successful fall harvest.

Getting Started

When you were planning your vegetable garden in the spring it was important to know that our average last frost date was May 15. The same type of planning is required when planting for fall. The average first frost date for our region is October 15. That is plenty of time for many of those cool season crops you enjoyed in the spring to have a second round in your garden. The cooler fall temperatures will actually improve the flavor for many of these cold-tolerant vegetables.

Keep in mind that planting a fall garden usually doesn’t involve buying vegetable starts at the garden center. You most likely won’t find any. However, many of the vegetables for a fall harvest are best grown directly in your garden from seed because they either don’t transplant well or they mature quickly and easily.

When deciding which varieties to grow for a fall harvest, look for ones with low “days to maturity” on the seed packet. Most varieties should be planted by mid to late August for a successful fall harvest. Seed packets will also indicate the depth and spacing of the seeds for planting. Some seed packets may indicate that thinning is required. This means you will plant the seeds closer than necessary and once the seedlings have developed their first true leaves, you can snip back some to allow for better air circulation and room to grow. Since seeds are planted close to the surface, the soil can dry out quickly. It’s important to water daily if there is no rainfall for successful germination. Once seedlings have emerged, water regularly as needed.

 

Best Plants for a Fall Harvest

Below is a list of some vegetable seeds you can sow directly into your garden in July and August for a fall harvest in Northern Illinois.

Root Vegetables

Radishes: sow seeds by the end of August; can be planted in succession (over the course of a few weeks) to extend harvest times; some varieties are less than 30 days to maturity; if you’re not a fan of their peppery taste, roasting radishes takes the bite out and makes them more palatable.

Turnips: sow seeds by mid August; look for varieties that mature within 45-65 days; their flavor will be enhanced with a light frost; both root and leaves are edible;

Carrots: sow seeds by the beginning of August; carrots take a longer time to germinate but you can find some varieties that take 55-60 days to mature; carrots need loose, obsticle-free soil and consistent moisture to grow well; harvest when the tops are at least 1/2 in in diameter.

Beets: sow seeds by the beginning of August; most varieties need 60 days to mature; best color and flavor develop in cooler conditions making this a great fall crop; both roots and leaves are edible.

Leafy greens

Leaf lettuce: seeds can be sown in late August; look for loose leaf varieties that are more heat tolerant; flavor will improve with cooler temperatures; harvesting outside leaves will allow the plant can continue to produce new leaves in the center. Some lettuce varieties need cooler soil temperatures for seeds to germinate so dampen the soil with cold water and mulch with straw one week before planting.

Spinach: sow seeds by the end of August; quick growing; can be harvested young as baby greens (25 days) or allowed to fully mature (50 days); harvesting outside leaves will allow the plant to continue to produce new leaves in the center.

Swiss Chard: sow seeds by mid August; can be harvested young as baby greens (around 40 days) or allowed to fully mature (60 days); is able to withstand a light frost; harvesting outside leaves will allow the plant to continue to produce new leaves in the center.

Kale: sow seeds by the end of August; is heat and frost tolerant; can be harvested early as baby greens (30 days) or allowed to fully mature (55 days); harvesting outside leaves will allow the plant to continue to produce new leaves in the center.

Arugula: sow seeds as late as early September; the quick growing leafy green can be harvested young as baby greens (21 days) or allowed to fully mature (35 days); harvesting outside leaves will allow the plant to continue to produce new leaves in the center.

Fruits, Herbs & Flowers

In addition to seeds, we offer a nice selection of perennial fruit plants. Depending on the variety, many types of raspberries and blackberries will produce a fall harvest, even on first year canes, so now is the perfect time to add these to your garden.  We also have a wide selection of culinary and ornamental herbs available. Herbs can help repel unwanted pests and add great fragrance to the garden. For instant gratification, adding some of our annual flowers can bring a pop of color and attract beneficial pollinators to your vegetable garden.

Take advantage of our hot summer deals with many fruits, herbs, flowers and seeds currently on sale. Visit us at either location.