The Last Champions of the Garden

Fall Vegetable Gardening

How do I know when to plant each vegetable?

How do I time my succession plantings?

When should I start seeds?

How do I know when it’s time to harvest broccoli, cabbage, onions?

Based on the number of questions I get about timing, it seems to be one of the most common struggles in vegetable gardening

Bad timing is the culprit of a lot of missed opportunities in our gardens. If we plant onions too late then they won’t turn into bulbs. If we don’t harvest broccoli at the right time it will flower. If it rains before we get to picking our ripe tomatoes they might split. The list goes on and on.

And the challenge of a seasonal pursuit like gardening is that when we miss the window we often don’t have another chance until the next season – a whole year later. To get the most from your garden it’s important to really understand, and then follow, the right timing for each vegetable.

At this time of year when I walk around town, I notice that most peoples’ vegetable gardens are put to bed for the season. They’re devoid of plants, raked clean, and hopefully mulched for the long winter ahead.

I feel sad for those gardeners because they’ve missed out on my favorite season in the garden – the late fall.

If your timing’s right in the summer you can set yourself up to have a long and leisurely harvest season in the fall. I still go out to harvest things from my garden every day…and sometimes two times a day!

While my garden isn’t the lush and bountiful explosion it was in August, it’s still providing me with a steady stream of vegetables that I can turn into delicious fall meals.

Here’s a peek into what’s still going strong in my garden right now. I like to call these vegetables…


Harvesting Spinach


When people ask me about my favorite vegetable to grow I usually say spinach. I could eat spinach every day – in my smoothie every morning and in a salad every night with dinner.

It survives the winter in Wisconsin, (something I can barely accomplish myself) and continues to grow the next spring. Back in August I planted three different kinds of spinach in three garden beds because there’s no such thing as too much!

I’ll be harvesting spinach until at least Thanksgiving, and most likely for Christmas dinner this year.


Fall Vegetable Garden

My fall broccoli brightened up by Strawberry Fields Globe Amaranth


In June I started broccoli seeds in my house for a fall planting. I’m reaping the rewards now with several large heads just hanging out waiting to be harvested.

In spring, broccoli tends to go to flower quickly if you don’t harvest it. In fall, it’s happy to sun itself in my garden for many weeks so I can take my time getting to it. The garden acts like a natural refrigerator because of the short, cool days and long, cold nights.


Herb Sauce


One night last week I made my favorite recipe from the The Blender Girl Cookbook – Cheerful Chimichurri Bowl. It features sweet potatoes, butternut squash, chard or kale, portabello mushrooms, avocado and quinoa with a bright green chimichurri sauce.

The chimichurri is a fresh, herb based sauce featuring parsley, cilantro, oregano, mint and scallions. This could be an expensive sauce to make in winter when you have to buy all of the ingredients from the grocery store. But, if you grow herbs in your garden, you should still have all of these ingredients ready to go.

They all survive light frosts and some of them will live through a frigid winter to come back again next spring.


Growing Purple Carrots


If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram (come on over!) you might know how much I love Deep Purple carrots. They were a new variety for me last year and they are stunningly beautiful.

I like to mix orange, purple and yellow carrot seed together and plant them in the same bed. In July I seeded a whole garden bed of carrots and now they’re patiently sitting there waiting to be harvested from the garden.  I’ll be dipping them into hummus or making them into my favorite Lentil & Carrot Soup.


Redbor Kale


Kale! It might be my second favorite vegetable to grow in the garden. The several different kinds I transplanted in April are still going strong. That’s some great bang for your buck – over 7 months of harvests from one plant.

Are you lukewarm about kale? I think you just haven’t found the right recipes yet. Start with a massaged kale salad.

I couldn’t imagine a fall garden without tons of kale!

Don’t feel discouraged if you missed the window this year with these vegetables. The great thing about gardening is that there’s always next year!

In the meantime, visit your local farmers market where you’ll find all of these vegetables and more at very reasonable prices since it’s still the harvest season.



  • Would please tell me what spinach you are growing? That is exciting it grows in your very cold weather. My husband loves spinach salads.

    • Sue- Right now I have Giant Winter Spinach and Corvair in my garden. Just to be clear, you can’t plant them right now in northern climates, it’s too late. I planted mine in August and they’ll survive and start growing again in spring. Thanks for reading!

  • I like the discussion of your vegetable garden. Spinach is also my favorite. I put it on my food list. Good luck to you.

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