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Planting for Fall and Winter Harvest

Cool weather crops
Cabbage and beets--cool-season crops for fall harvest
Cabbage and beets–cool-season crops for fall harvest

Planning and planting for fall and winter harvest should begin in early- to mid-summer depending on how soon cold weather will arrive in your region.

Where growing seasons are shorter—USDA Zones 4-7—and summers are cooler, cool-weather crops for harvest in fall and winter harvest should be planted in June. If your growing season is longer or your winters are relatively mild, cool-weather crops can be planted in July and in some regions even August.

Look ahead to the average first frost date in your area to determine when cool-weather crops will need to be harvested. Count back the number of days to maturity for each of the specific crop varieties you are planting to determine when to plant.

Let’s have a look at the growing period for cool-weather crops:

Days From Planting to Harvest:

  • Beets: 60—80
  • Broccoli from plants: 60—80
  • Brussels sprouts from plants: 60—80
  • Bush beans: 40—60
  • Cabbage from plants: 60—90
  • Carrots: 60—70
  • Cauliflower plants: 60—80
  • Chard: 60—80
  • Chinese cabbage: 80—100
  • Endive: 60—80
  • Leeks: 120—170
  • Lettuce: 60—90
  • Parsnips: 95—120
  • Radish: 28—40
  • Rutabagas: 90—100
  • Spinach: 40—50
  • Turnips: 50—80

You will notice some spread in the planting-to harvest time for some crops. This is determined by the variety and the stage at which the vegetables are picked. There are several varieties of cabbage to choose from—some are small-headed and are ready sooner than large headed types. Fingerling carrots can be pulled in 60 days, but you can let carrots develop for a month longer if you wish. Rutabagas grow sweeter as the autumn weather grows nippy, but you can harvest them sooner. And so it goes.

The important thing is begin to plan early and make sure that seeds are planted and start growing with harvest time in mind.

Feed the Soil Before Summer Planting

Be sure to give summer planted crops a nutritious start. Spread and work well-rotted compost into the planting bed. Or spread four to five pounds (pints) of all-purpose fertilizer for each 100 square feet. You can broadcast this across the planting bed and mix it in during the digging for seed sowing or plant setting.

Be sure to sow summer planted seed a little deeper than you did for spring plantings; the soil is warm now and the weather drier so seed will germinate a bit quicker but need some protection.

If the soil is dry, drench furrows or mounds with compost tea before sowing seeds. This will give summer-started cool-weather crops just the boost they need.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this amazing post with us I am learning a lot from this blog,
    Great tips!
    Spinach was always passion of mine. But I always had difficulty growing spinach until I started doing this:
    One question – Should i pre germinate the seeds?
    For a spring harvest I start them inside in February and then plant the seedlings in early March in a cold frame. I’m in zone 4 (in southern Quebec) so our spring weather is often cold, but spinach does great,

    • The optimal soil temperature for spinach germination is 40F to 75F. Seed may not germinate in warmer soil. The seed will germinate in about 3 weeks at 50F, but germination drops to 30 percent at 77F. To increase the germination rate, pre-germinate seeds by placing them between sheets of moist paper towel in a plastic bag and refrigerating until they sprout. Spinach seedlings are difficult to transplant. Start transplants indoors about 3 to 6 weeks before the last frost.

    • Herbs are easy to grow in containers on rooftops. You will need containers at least 6 to 8 inches deep–to insure plenty of soil nutrients and to allow an even distribution of soil moisture. After that, grow herbs in containers as you would in the garden. Do not over or under water–keep the soil evenly moist for best growth. You can use a dilute fish emulsion fertilizer if you suspect your herbs need a boost as the season progresses.

      • hi Steve! Thanks for all the great information. I live in the south of Spain. We don’t get frost or freezing temperatures in the region I live. Does this mean that I can plant cool weather crops any time as soon as the weather cools down?

        • Yes, if you live without frost you can consider the cool time of the year your spring (you can call your autumn “second-spring”). Once temperatures fall consistently into the 60sF/15C, you can plant cool-weather crops. Time your planting of cool weather crops so that they come to harvest before temperatures climb back into the 70s/14C. Take into consideration that in autumn the days are growing shorter so you may need to add several days to the number of days to maturity (days to maturity appear on seed packets).

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