When the trees start turning color, gardening season isn’t over for the year. You can actually grow and harvest vegetables at least into the beginning of winter (even if you don't live in the South). If the idea of growing a winter vegetable garden intrigues you, here's some ideas that will be fruitful.
Can you really plant vegetables in the fall?
There are lots of vegetables you can plant in September or early October and be eating the produce of your own garden at Thanksgiving (or before). In fact some people feel that cooler fall days give vegetables more flavor than those grown in the summer. The key to knowing what to plant is understanding how long a plant takes to develop and how tolerant it is to frost.
What can I actually grow?
Radishes grow quickly and fresh radishes are a great addition to a salad for their color and taste. You can even sow radish seeds a week or so apart and have an ongoing harvest.
Carrots are very tolerant to frost and small, baby carrots look and taste great. If temperatures drop rapidly, cover them with a few inches of mulch and you can harvest them even after there is snow on the ground.
Beets provide great color in the garden as well as in the kitchen. Harvested young, they make a great addition to a salad. After maturity the leaves can be cooked similar to spinach and used in stir fries or as a vegetable by themselves.
Cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, as well as many different varieties of lettuce are some other examples of vegetables you can successfully plant in the fall.
Do you do anything different?
Start your vegetables from seeds rather than transplants or "starter" plants. Besides the fact you will have a lot of difficulty finding transplants, seeds are more tolerant to frost so are a better choice. Plant your seeds in your existing garden while cleaning out your summer crop or removing annuals and pruning the perennials. You aren't looking for a large winter garden, rather you're looking for a small space to grow fresh vegetables for the table.
Before planting, lightly till the soil with a fork or by hand. Don't add large amounts of organic material to the soil, as it will tend to loosen it and could cause it to dry out quickly.
After planting your seeds cover them with soil lightly cover them with a layer of compost. Apply fertilizer along the sides of the plant rows a couple of weeks after planting. Be sure to keep the seeds moist since the cooler fall days will tend to draw moisture out of the soil and compost and the seeds need lots of moisture to germinate and grow strong.
Though it’s cool outside, in a little time you’re have fresh vegetables for your table.