Susan, a reader in New York, started her first garden this year. She told some of what she had learned in the comment section at the end of this post.
In closing she asks “—what to do (if anything) after it all stops producing? Is there any thing I could plant which may grow from now till the first frost?”
When summer crops stop producing, fall crops can fill the gap if they’re started in time. With a little know-how and/or some protection you can have many greens all winter, although growth will be slower because of cold temperatures and less daylight hours.
Ideally the time to start fall crops in areas with cold winters is August. High temperatures can make that improbable. It usually does for me; thus, I start various greens in September.
First Recommendation – Start Mache
If I were Susan I’d direct sow mache as soon as possible. (It starts better sown in the garden than it does in containers; at least for me.)
It’s one of the most delicious greens you’ll ever taste and is high in nutrients. No protection from ice and snow is needed, although it’ll grow faster if it has some. (A row cover fabric over it would be easy.)
For more details on how to start and grow mache the following posts will be helpful:
- 6 Reasons to Grow Mache
- Why Grow It and Secrets to Having Enough
- Winter Greens – (more pictures and how to get mache started)
Garlic – One of the Most Beneficial Foods You Can Grow
Still plenty of time to order and plant garlic in October or even November.
The post, When to Plant and Why, will help you decide the right planting date.
Mizuna is a beautiful green with excellent cold tolerance and would be perfect for the fall/winter garden. It’s stronger tasting than lettuce but without the bitterness of arugula.
In freezing weather it’ll need a bit of protection.
This post gives you more information.
Chard, Russian Kale, and spinach are great choices for the fall/winter garden,.
It might be a bit late to start Hakurei turnips, but I’d try starting a few seeds anyway and save the rest for spring planting. They’re a gourmet treat. The only turnips I’d even consider eating.
For pictures and more help with some of the crops mentioned above review this post.
Winter Density Lettuce
Susan might give Winter Density lettuce a try, but how much it grows before the first frost will depend on temperatures in her area.
Lettuces take light frosts easily. About 28ºF is the kill zone if you don’t provide protection.
What To Do With Beds Not Being Used For Food Crops
Another thing that would help nourish the soil on beds not being used for food is planting a cover crop.
Oats – An Easy Cover Crop for Winter
Oats would be good cover to plant since they winter kill. By the time spring arrives they’ll either be decayed or can easily be pulled and left on top to further decay.
They should be planted (direct sown) at least 6 to 10 weeks prior to the first frost.
On beds that are empty, the residues from summer crops that were healthy and not pest infested can be laid on top and covered with leaves and/or straw.
Soil life will break it down and pull it into the soil over time.
Nothing else needs to be done in those beds. When spring comes, just pull back what’s left of the mulch and plant.
Most new gardeners don’t even think about continuing their garden through fall. But Susan did.
Fall is one of the best and most enjoyable times to garden. If you didn’t know and missed out this year, make a note for next year and take full advantage of this great season to grow.
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