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What to plant now for fall and winter garden crops! Today I’m going to share with you the crops that can be planted now in mid to end of summer that you’re going to be able to harvest through fall and maybe even through the winter months, depending on your climate, because being able to harvest food from your garden as close to year round as possible is pretty amazing, and doable!
Listen in below to the full podcast, Episode #191 What to Plant in August for Fall Garden Crops, of the Pioneering Today Podcast, where we don’t just inspire you, but give you the clear steps to create the homegrown garden, pantry, kitchen and life you want for your family and homestead.
As I’m recording this, it’s full on summer. It’s a gorgeous, warm, sunny day so it seems a bit odd to be talking about fall planting this time of year. But in order for the plants that you want to be harvesting during the fall months, it’s key that you get them planted early enough that they become established before the temperatures start to drop. Once temperatures start to cool down, and before you get hard frosts, the growth rate really starts to slow down. They’re going to grow a lot smaller, and if they don’t already have a good root system and they’re not already well established, then you won’t get a harvest from them.
Here in the U.S. we have growing zones that help determine what your average low temperatures are in the winter time and the average amount of days that you have in your growing season. For me, we can usually start planting most of our warm weather crops mid-May and then I get my first hard freeze, meaning it kills everything – warm weather plants, in the fall usually in mid-September. If we’re lucky with an extended summer, then the first part of October.
These tips I’m going to share are going to apply for gardening zones six through about eight (wondering what to plant in august zone 6 – 8 , this is your article!).
Technically, if you look at the map, it says my gardening zone is about 7b, but I know because we’re up here in the foothills of the mountain that we’re really closer to gardening zone 6 as far as average temperatures and when we have our first and last frosts.
There’s going to be two types of crops you can put in this time of year to get a harvest from well into the fall and even into the winter months. Now, we’ve missed the opportunity to plant by seed the first type of crop, and that is anything in the Brassica family (cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale). You’ll want to plant them by starts late July to mid-August. Plants in the brassica family are frost hardy so it won’t kill them. We’ve had snow on ours before, as long as it’s not deep that the plants get completely covered, I can come out and harvest my Brussels sprouts or kale right into winter.
The second type are anything that can be planted by seed such as peas, root veggies, or leafy greens. When direct seeding some of these plants, if you get really high temperatures and your soil is really, really hot, you might have a bit of an issue getting some of them to germinate because they prefer it a bit cooler. Knowing this I always plant extra seeds knowing that I can always thin them out.
You may want to look around your garden for areas with some natural shade. You can also put up some shade cloths to help keep the soil temps a bit cooler. Catch the video below & make sure you hop over and subscribe to our YouTube channel if you’re not!
What to Plant in August for a Fall Garden – 14 Crops
Crops 1 through 4 are best done with starts if your first frost date is 6 to 8 weeks out
Brussels sprouts You want Brussels sprouts to go through a hard frost to get the absolute best flavor.
Kale Kale is the same in that you want them to go through a hard frost to get the best flavor. It’s such a great and hardy plant. Last year I harvested clear into February even with up to three feet of snow. It slows down once you start getting those really cold and really dark days so you don’t get as much leaf production but the existing leaves hold really well. I can almost grow kale year round because it’s so cold hardy. The following crops can be direct sown from seed!
Snow Peas or Sugar Snap Peas These should be direct sown because they, just like beans, don’t like being their roots messed with. Snow peas are great for growing in places where you have a warm climate through fall and into winter because they’re going to produce better for you in the really hot temperatures. If it gets really hot and you have a long hot spell (highs of 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit highs during the day) pea blossoms won’t set fruit. You’ll get blossoms but you won’t actually get a lot of harvest.
Beets Beets are one of my favorites. They will tolerate some frosts and if they’re well established and you have more mild winters, you can mulch heavily and leave the beets in the ground and harvest them through fall as long as your ground is not frozen. Beets should be direct sown as well. They’re a little more tolerant of warmer soil temps, germinating in soil that is up to 85 degrees F. One tip for best germination, especially when planting in the summer months because the soil is hot and dry, is to soak the seeds. This can be done for many of the seeds you’ll be planting for your fall garden.
Spinach I like to plant Chinese spinach, which is in the amaranth family. Chinese spinach is something that you can plant and they’ll continue to grow. Regular spinach is also another great crop that does better for you in the cooler months than it does in the heat of summer. It doesn’t bolt as fast and so the spinach actually grows much better in spring and fall than it does in summer.
Carrots End of July first part of August is a good time to direct sow to get another harvest of carrots. If you wait to direct sow your carrots too late they will grow but the roots will be too small and once you get hard frosts they go into major hibernation mode meaning they won’t continue to grow. They’ll stay that small size until you hit the other side of winter. That’s why it’s key to get carrots direction sown and growing as early as possible. Ideally at least six to eight weeks before your first hard frost.
Swiss chard Swiss chard is a member of the beet family which is why it does well in cooler temps, but it doesn’t develop a root that you can harvest like a beet. The greens are great coming in many different colors. Some great varieties to grow are Rainbow Swiss chard which have red, yellow and purplish stalks. Regular chard has that characteristic beet coloring of a red stalk with the bright green leaves. It’s very cold hardy.
Lettuce Another option is lettuce, especially the cold hardy varieties. You can plant them now and they’ll grow into September and most likely October because they usually tolerate a light frost. Even if you have some hard frosts, what we call killing frosts where it gets below 32 degrees down into 20 degrees, then you can cover them up at night and they’ll grow really well for you. With the light frost protection they may even grow well into November, depending on what your average cold temperatures are. One thing that I do to take advantage of the shade provided by my beans is plant my lettuce inside my bean teepee. So look for spots like that where you can take advantage of the cooler soil temperature and where it won’t compete with the existing crop. For me this is a great solution because the beans are almost done producing by the time the lettuce is being planted and I’ll be taking them out soon. This is a great way to use the existing summer crop to help grow the cooler weather fall crops.
Rutabaga Rutabagas aren’t something that can be planted in July or August because they need 80 to 100 days from planting to harvest. This is one crop that’s best planted in spring and harvested in fall. The reason I’m including it is because they’re best harvested after ripening in the cool weather.
Radishes While this one shouldn’t be planted now, it is a crop that you can plant once you have cooler temperatures. They are one thing you can plant when the soil temps are even 40-40 degrees F and they’ll be ready to harvest in as little as three to four weeks. If you’re in zones 4 and 5 you may want to put them in now but if you don’t have your first frost until mid or end of September then I would wait a little bit before planting.
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I’d love to know what you are planting and growing in your fall garden, especially now that you know what to plant in August for those fall and winter crops, leave me a comment below!
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.