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.