by Connie Oswald Stofko
You can harvest vegetables and herbs into the fall–and even winter–when you plant cool weather vegetables at this time of year.
Unlike plants such as tomatoes and peppers that need warm weather to thrive, cool weather vegetables are plants that actually like the cooler temperatures. Some can tolerate temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
See the table below for more than 20 herbs and vegetables you can still plant this year.
“Many experienced gardeners, not just new gardeners, don’t consider planting in succession,” said Patti Jablonski-Dopkin, general manager at Urban Roots Cooperative Garden Market.
I think that’s because gardeners aren’t quite sure what it is or how to do it.
With succession planting (or second sowing), you plant a second crop at this time of year. The first crop is planted in late winter or spring and harvested in spring or summer. This second crop is planted in summer or fall to harvest in autumn or winter.
What may confuse people is figuring out when to plant. It’s all explained below.
Why you should try succession planting
“This is a chance to try new varieties that you haven’t tried before,” Jablonski-Dopkin said. “You can see what works best.”
It’s inexpensive, too, since you will probably be starting from seed.
“And if you have a small city garden, you might not even go through all your seeds,” she said. “You may have some left that you can use next spring.”
She did note that the rate of germination varies widely among seed companies. (The germination rate is the percentage of seeds that actually begin to grow.) Seed Savers Exchange and Botanical Interests supply seeds that have a high germination rate. While Urban Roots also carries Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for variety, their germination rates are lower, she said.
As I write this, seeds for all of the plants listed on the table below are available at Urban Roots, and they have different varieties, too.
When to plant
There are two things you need to know in order to figure out when to plant cool weather vegetables.
- Frost dates. Find the expected first frost date for your area at Garden.org or Webgrower.com.
- How many days it will take each vegetable to produce a crop. See the table below from Urban Roots.
Second sowing vegetables
|Vegetable||Number of days to maturity||Cold hardiness|
|Basil||30-60||Killed by frost|
|Beets||50-60||Survives high 20s Fahrenheit|
|Bush Beans||45-65||Killed by frost|
|Broccoli||50-70||Survives light frost|
|Brussels sprouts||90-100||Survives down to 20° Fahrenheit|
|Cabbage||50-90||Survives down to 20° Fahrenheit|
|Carrot||60-80||Tastes better after a light frost|
|Cauliflower||60-80||Survives light frost|
|Cilantro||60-70||Survives light frost|
|Collard greens||40-65||Survives down to 20° Fahrenheit|
|Garlic||Harvest the following July||Winters over in ground|
|Green onion||60-70||Survives high 20s Fahrenheit|
|Kale||40-65||Survives down to 20° Fahrenheit|
|Kohlrabi||50-60||Survives light frost|
|Leaf lettuce||40-60||Survives light frost|
|Mustard greens||30-40||Survives light frost|
|Pea||70-80||Survives high 20s Fahrenheit (Has a longer harvest time than if planted in spring)|
|Radish||30-60||Dig until soil freezes|
|Spinach||35-45||Survives light frost; may overwinter|
|Swiss chard||40-60||Survives light frost|
|Turnip||50-60||Survives light frost|
Now we have a tiny bit of calculating to do, as well as some estimating.
First, choose what vegetable you would like to plant.
Then look at the table. Find the number under “Number of days to maturity” for your vegetable. Then add a week or two (7 to 14 days). That will tell you how long it will take from planting until you can harvest.
For example, carrots take 60-80 days. Let’s use 70 as our number for crop days to maturity. We will add 14 days. That gives us 84 days from the time we plant to the time we can harvest.
Also check the table for the notes on cold hardiness. Carrots can take a light frost and are actually a little sweeter after a frost, so you want to try to have your carrots ready after the first frost.
In the Buffalo area, we have a 50 percent chance of having 32 degree temperatures by Oct. 19. You want to harvest around then, so count back 84 days from Oct. 19. (It’s easier to count weeks than days, so we can divide 84 days by 7 and count back 12 weeks.)
That means that in the Buffalo area, we should plant carrots around July 27.
Other tips on succession planting
Notes on a few vegetables
- For peas, autumn is actually better than spring. “The ground is warmer for the roots, and the air temperature is cooler for the plant” in autumn than in spring, Jablonski-Dopkin said.”And you get a longer harvest period in the fall because the weather is getting cooler, not hotter.”
- Plants such as lettuce won’t bolt in the autumn like they do when temperatures get warm in spring.
- Basil likes warm night temperatures and is killed by frost, but it takes only 30 to 60 days to mature, she said. Cilantro takes 60 to 70 days, but it likes cooler temperatures.
- Brussels sprouts have a long growing period–90 to 100 days–but you still have time to plant. Brussels sprouts can take temperatures down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and (depending on where you live) we probably won’t get temperatures that cold until the end of November.
- Garlic is harvested in July, and it is generally recommended that you plant it in October. I have had success planting it in October, but I have also had success planting it right after I harvest through September and into October. See more about garlic here.
If you’re planting where you just planted, add some fertilizer or compost or aged manure, Jablonski-Dopkin said.
“Give them some food,” she said. “The soil has been depleted. Living things need food.”
Extend the growing season
You can create tunnels with shade cloths to help extend the season. They will also help protect your plants from rabbits, Jablonski-Dopkin said.
Get more information on extending the growing season for herbs and vegetables here.