For some people, the growing season ends in autumn. To them, you should have harvested most (if not all) of your crops by this time. Then wait until next spring to start planting again. However, experienced farmers and gardeners know that this is not true. You can still sow crops until early winter.
In fact, autumn is a great time to sow. The soil is moist and warm. As for the weather, there is less heat and just enough sunlight. Therefore, new plants will find it easy to adapt and get established in your garden. The soil is also easy to till. This ideal growing environment lasts about 8-12 weeks before winter starts.
That’s more than enough time to sown and harvest some of the vegetables on our list. However, we will also discuss vegetables that you can’t harvest until winter or next spring (after sowing in autumn). These two latter categories give you winter harvests and early harvests for the next growing season.
Either way, this article will show you what and how to plant, so your garden won’t be empty throughout autumn (and winter).
Radishes are a staple of autumn gardening because of their hardiness and fast growth rate. You can harvest in just 4 weeks. Don’t sow radishes later than September. We recommend sowing fast-growing and winter varieties.
Carrots are also hardy and cold-resistant enough to survive in winter. However, this is only possible if they have enough time to establish before winter starts. Also, autumn carrots have higher sugar content. Therefore, they are usually sweeter.
Note that carrots need 9-15 weeks (germination and maturity) before you can harvest. So, plant early, or you won’t have a harvest until next spring.
Any variety of onions will do. However, we recommend winter varieties. You can also plant spring onions. Do note that you won’t have a harvest until next spring. It is also crucial to sow early to give your crops enough time to establish.
Your onion or spring onion plants will need light and air. So, you need to space them properly while planting. You will also need to weed and thin the crop occasionally. The upside is that you can use the thinnings in salads.
Spinach is cold-tolerant and fast-growing. So, it is ideal for autumn gardening. In fact, it is usually better to grow spinach in autumn, because the cooler temperatures reduce flowering. You want this because flowering leads to reduced leaf production.
Your veggies will be ready for harvest in 6-8 weeks. Once the crops are matured, you can harvest them throughout winter. Cut off flowers, as they appear to discourage flowering.
Kale is another staple of autumn gardening. It is perfectly suited to cool weather, and you can harvest it throughout winter. Plant in early autumn if you want to harvest by winter. Here is a bonus – winter kale tastes great.
Lettuce is another plant that enjoys cool weather. This is because the cold reduces flowering (we have discussed the effects earlier). Plant in early autumn. Then, you can harvest throughout winter, starting from 6-8 weeks after planting.
Remember to cut off flowers as they appear.
Turnips are also great options for autumn growing. They are cold-hardy, fast-growing (6-10 weeks) and you can harvest in winter. Choose a cold-tolerant variety and ensure they are established before winter. Plant from late summer to mid-autumn.
You can harvest in winter if you sow early. Otherwise, you will have to wait until next spring. Either way, potatoes are a great option to plant in autumn. Just choose a hardy variety and make sure they are established before winter starts. Sow latest by early September.
Broad beans are also an option. However, you can’t harvest until next spring. Plant by late autumn to give your veggies enough time to establish. They will stay small and dormant in winter, so you won’t need to add support (stakes or trellises) until spring.
The same things that apply to broad beans apply to peas. Plant latest in late autumn, and expect to harvest next spring. Remember to space your crops properly when planting.
This is another veggie that actually prefers autumn. Just sow early enough for your crops to establish by late September. They will be ready for harvest in 8-12 weeks, and you can harvest in winter.
Garlic plants are also hardy enough to survive winter. However, you will have to wait until next spring or summer for harvest. Choose a cold-tolerant specie and plant by late autumn or early winter.
The last crop on our list, rocket, also loves winter. It is cold-tolerant, fast-growing, and you can harvest in winter.
Tips for planting in autumn
Here are some tips for ensuring everything goes according to plan, especially as winter sets in.
- Protect your crops (especially young ones) from the cold: You can use professional options like a polytunnel or greenhouse, and DIY options like a blanket, tarp or mulch. These options will allow you to grow plants deep into winter.
- Don’t overwater your crops: It is easy to make this mistake, because summer has just ended. In autumn, your crops and soil don’t need as much water as they did in summer. As a precaution, water only on hot days or if the soil is dry.
- Know what overwintering (AKA cold storage) means: This is when you plant a crop, knowing that it will remain dormant in winter. The crop will only start growing again (at its normal growth rate) after winter ends and the next growing season starts.
- Plant early: This will give your crops enough growing time to establish or mature (be ready for harvest) before winter.
- You can sow seedlings instead of seeds: Sow seeds under more ideal conditions, then transplant seedlings into the garden.
Now you know what and how to plant in autumn (and winter). Here is a quick rundown of our list. Plant radishes, spinach, kale, carrots (early), lettuce, turnips, potatoes (early), cauliflower and rockets if you want to harvest before or during winter. If you don’t mind waiting until the next spring (for harvest), plant carrots, onions, potatoes, broad beans, peas, peas and garlic.
Remember, you can also plant some of these vegetables as companion crops.