Mid-Summer is the perfect time to get your Fall garden started to continue enjoying the best survival food later in the year. The sun and warm weather will help plants to sprout and grow to produce a harvest in the Fall. Some plants will continue to produce through the first frost and beyond.
When planning which gardening seeds you need for your Fall garden, you want to consider the length of time between planting and when the first hard frost occurs in your area. You want to make sure that the varieties you choose will have enough time to grow and that they are frost tolerant, if that is necessary in your climate.
Some of our favorite vegetable garden seed varieties for a bountiful Fall harvest include:
Beets will be sweeter if they mature in cooler soil. They may need some shade during the peak of Summer to get started. Because they are root vegetables, beets should be grown from seeds planted directly in the garden, so the roots won’t be disturbed or damaged by transplanting. Remember to thin the beet seedlings when they are 3 to 4 inches tall to allow for the roots to grow. Don't throw away the seedlings. They are tasty microgreens full of nutrients! Beets should have constant moisture, especially during the hottest part of the Summer.
Remember that the whole beet plant is edible from greens to roots, making it a valuable survival food. Young beet greens and microgreens are delicious for salads, or you can cook mature beet greens like you would Swiss chard or collards. The beetroots themselves can be pickled or canned for long-term storage or stored in a root cellar for 2-5 months.
Broccoli prefers an extended period of cooler weather to grow perfectly. You can start your broccoli from seed indoors during the summer and transplant it outside when the weather cools down. You should be able to harvest the main head of broccoli about 50 days after transplanting it into the garden. When harvesting, leave the plant and its leaves, and you should see secondary branches with smaller heads that form that will extend your harvest.
You’ll want to harvest the heads of broccoli while the buds are tight and before they open into flowers. Cut the stalk at an angle to prevent the likelihood of rot.
Brussels sprouts are one of the most cold-hardy garden vegetables you can plant. They love the cool weather and should be harvested after being exposed to a couple of frosts. Brussels sprouts need a lot of sun and water to grow. This is another plant you may want to start indoors in July and transplant when weather conditions cool down. In warmer climates, you can plant Brussels sprouts in the Fall and harvest them as a Spring crop.
You can harvest Brussels sprouts when the sprouts get to about 1/2 inch wide, but you can wait until they are up to 2 inches. Don’t harvest in warm weather or they will be bitter. They can be eaten fresh, roasted, grilled, steamed, or sauteed.
Bush beans are easy to grow because they do not require support for the plants. Bush beans grow quickly in cooler weather and will produce beans in 45 to 60 days. Warmer climates may even be able to plant multiple crops. Beans are also beneficial for garden soil. Once your bean harvest is over, till the plants into the soil to restore nitrogen.
Cabbage is a cool weather crop that thrives in temperatures between 30 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. You can start seeds indoors 6-12 weeks before the first frost. Transplant to the garden when sprouts are 3-4 weeks old. Cabbage is very cold hardy and will tolerate frost well.
Cabbage needs cool weather and consistent water to produce a head. Many areas will be able to harvest cabbage through most of the winter. Cabbage keeps for a few months in a root cellar, or you can preserve it by pickling or fermenting. If you've never had it, homemade sauerkraut is a treat!
Carrots will be the sweetest if allowed to mature in cool soil. Like beets, you’ll want to plant carrots directly in the garden and thin seedlings so you have 1 to 4 inches of space between plants. It’s best to cut rather than pull seedlings when thinning so as not to disturb root growth.
For a continuous harvest of carrots, you can successively plant seeds every 1 to 3 weeks until mid-Summer. Don’t rush your carrot harvest, as they taste best when allowed to fully mature. Carrots will store well in the fridge for up to 3 months or up to 6 months in a root cellar. With careful planning, you can have carrots all winter long.
Kale grows best in full sun, so it is ideal to plant during the mid-Summer; however, kale will be at its most tender and flavorful if harvested after going through some frost. You can start seeds indoors in July and transplant them outside in August. Keep plants well watered. Pull and discard plants after they start to flower as those leaves will be tough and bitter.
Like carrots, lettuce can be planted in succession for extended harvesting. You can plant lettuce from seed indoors during the hottest part of the Summer and plant outside when the weather cools down. Lettuce is also very easily grown in containers so that you can move plants inside to avoid frost damage. Lettuce thrives in mild weather with consistent watering. Extend your growing season by sowing seeds every 3 weeks or so.
Not only is Swiss chard a tasty green, but it’s also a lovely ornamental plant. Chard leaves are packed with nutrients and like kale, are sweeter when harvested in cooler weather. However, chard doesn’t bolt in warm weather so you can easily plant it in the middle of Summer without worry.
You can harvest chard leaves whenever they reach the stage that best suits your needs. Young leaves make tasty salad greens or let them mature for cooking. For a continual harvest, just remove a few of the outer leaves at a time. Leaves become tougher as they age, so cut plants back to 3 to 5 inches tall to encourage new growth.
Turnips grow best in cool conditions, so you will want to plant them in late Summer for a Fall crop. Turnips are a relative of cabbage, and the whole plant is edible - both greens and roots. Turnip greens are slightly spicy and the roots have a sweet mild flavor.
Plant turnips about 2 months before your first frost. They are hardy vegetables and will continue to grow through early winter if covered with a thick layer of mulch. You do need to harvest them before the ground is fully frozen. They can be stored in a root cellar for 2-6 months once harvested.
Other Vegetables to Consider
Some other vegetables you might want to include in your Fall garden include spinach, arugula, mustard greens, collards, radishes, kohlrabi, cauliflower, bunching onions, leeks, and peas. All of these prefer cooler weather for growing. There are also plants to sow in the Fall for harvest next year, like garlic. Consult your local Cooperative Extension for more information on planting and frost dates to plan your sowing times.
Check out our Fall Garden Seed Collection for non-GMO, heirloom varieties of garden seeds for sale. All of our survival seed packets include sowing instructions as well as instructions on saving seeds.