Autumn Vegetable Gardening

Did your plans for a summer vegetable garden not work out?  Did you lose track of time and never got around to planting a summer garden?  Did you go on vacation to come back to a weedy mess that you just didn’t have the energy to correct before it was too late?  If you answered yes to any of these questions it’s not too late to get homegrown vegetables from your own backyard this season! 


Broccoli, Brassica oleracea var. italica, – Gerald Holmes, Strawberry Center, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo,

Early August is the time to start planting and planning for your fall garden.  Many people don’t even think about vegetable gardening in the fall but it is actually the best time to grow many of our cool season vegetables.  Taste and quality of most cool season vegetables is better in the fall because the weather is getting cooler when harvest and ripening time nears instead of hotter like it does in the spring.  Vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflowers, and turnips develop bitter compounds in hot weather; however in cooler weather such as in late September and October these plants store sugars and starches which greatly improve their taste.


Now is the time to plant broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower transplants into the garden.  Keep in mind; these are cool season crops that will need extra water in hot dry weather to get established.


Cauliflower, Brassica oleracea var. botrytis, – Rebecca A. Melanson, Mississippi State University Extension,

You can also seed crops such as beets, bush beans, kale, collards, Bibb lettuce, and radishes in early August.  Radish can even be planted all the way to mid September.  With beans, keep in mind that generally bush beans can be planted until August 15 in West Kentucky and late July and early August for East and Central Kentucky and still make before frost, however be sure to pick early maturing varieties.  The other crops mentioned can be planted anytime in August.

Many people in our area don’t plant spinach because it tends to bolt (go to seed) and doesn’t have a mild flavor.  This is because they plant it too late in the spring and hot dry weather causes the flavor to deteriorate as well as stresses the plant which tells it to reproduce or bolt.  Fall planted spinach in September won’t go to seed because of the cool weather and short day length.   Individual leaves can be harvested to cook or add to a salad.  These smaller spinach plants will generally over winter and give you early great tasting spinach next spring.

After your fall crop is up and actively growing side dress it with nitrogen fertilizer such as urea.  Apply 3 tablespoons of urea per 10 feet of row four to six inches away from the plants.  If it doesn’t rain water the plants soon to activate the fertilizer.

Submitted by Dennis Morgeson, Agent for Horticulture, Washington County Cooperative Extension Service