Now Is the Time to Plant Your Cool Season Crops

Do you worry August is too late to start a garden? Or do you think the approach of fall signals the end of fresh Tower Garden harvests? Not so!

As long as you plant the right crops at the right time, you can keep growing until freezing weather stops you. In fact, I might argue fall is my favorite season to grow.

Thanks to cooler temperatures, there are fewer pests to worry about. And I can check on my Tower Garden without nearly sweating to death (ah, Southern summers). But maybe I’m biased. After all, it was on a late July day that I planted my Tower Garden for the first time. And that initial round of broccoli, kale, mustard greens and more produced delicious yields throughout the fall.

Regardless, you can and should keep growing through cooler months. Here’s a little advice on how to do that.

Factoring in Your First Frost Date

When planning your fall garden, the most important detail to consider is frost—or more specifically, when the first frost is likely to hit. (This, of course, assumes your area experiences frost.)

Tower Tip: Not sure when the first frost date is in your area? Find your estimated first frost date here.

Follow these two simple steps to help ensure your plants reach maturity before they’re stunted or killed by cold weather:

  1. Identify the number of days until harvest for the crop you’d like to grow. This information is often included on the back of seed packets and seedling labels. (If you haven’t bought seeds or seedlings yet, check seed provider catalogs or websites for this info.)
  2. Using the days until harvest number, count backwards from your first frost date. The resulting date is when you should plant. (If you don’t want to do the math in your head, this calculator makes it easy.) You may want to add a week or so to give yourself a little breathing room.

For example, my first frost date is November 13. And I want to grow Swiss chard, which should be ready to harvest in about 60 days. After counting backwards 60 days from November 13, I discovered I should plant my crop no later than September 14. (But I’ll actually plant on the first of the month to counter the growth-deterring effects of cooler weather.)

Pretty straightforward, right?

Picking the Perfect Plants

Knowing your first frost date is helpful in determining when to start your fall crops. But it’s not the only factor you should consider. Autumn brings with it specific conditions that not all plants tolerate well. Tomatoes, peppers and squash thrive in the long, warm days of summer—not so much in the shorter, cooler days of fall, for instance.

But the following 35 vegetables, herbs and edible flowers actually prefer these conditions (i.e., plant these now!):

  • Arugula
  • Beans
  • Bok Choy
  • Borage
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Calendula
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chives
  • Collards
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Endive
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lavender
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Marigold
  • Marjoram
  • Mint
  • Mizuna

Here's that list again, in a nice, shareable graphic:

35 Cool Season Crops to Grow in Your Tower Garden this Fall

After you pick your plants from this list, be sure to compare their days until harvest with your first frost date. You don’t want to start all your plants and then have your season end before they’re finished growing.

I should also note that though this list is a good starting place, it’s not exhaustive (or even 100% applicable to every growing zone). I recommend contacting your local cooperative extensive office to double check which plants are best for your area this time of year.

Tower Tip: As you transition between seasons and fresh plantings, consider cleaning your Tower Garden to help prevent plant diseases.

Referencing Resources

Excited to start your cool weather Tower Garden? (I am!) You may find these resources helpful:

And in case you’d prefer to skip the outdoor fall season and move inside, here’s a comprehensive indoor growing guide.

Do you have any questions about growing a cool weather garden? Leave a comment below, and I’ll be happy to help.

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