Fall Vegetable Gardening: Start Planning NOW!

Fall Garden Bed

Summer is nearly over, or at least according to the calendar is it. I’m looking forward to cooler weather, how ’bout you? My garden is scraggly and I’m ready to yank out everything. The tomatoes are sprawled all over, aphids are still a problem,and the crabgrass and spurge out of control. It’s time for a change!

In case I haven’t mentioned it, I live in an apartment. My porch is pretty small. I’m quite lucky to have a garden at work. Sometimes, work gets crazy, and days pass before I get outside during a break or lunch to pull weeds or even water. Which is why my zucchini plant died. But I digress!

The difficult part about the summer-fall transition is that many plants are still producing.  In normal years, (in zone 9) tomatoes, peppers and eggplants produce until late fall October/November, until the first frost finally kills them. (usually before the end of November).

Lettuce harvest

Because of my garden, I know most people in my building. Many stop to pay the garden a compliment and tell me how it brightens their day to see it. In fact, some have gotten a bit opinionated and have shrieked,”Oh Nooo!! Why are you pulling that out?!?!” right in the middle of a “tough love garden decision,” which is when I yank out old plants and toss them in the compost pickup heap (I let the landscapers do my composting for me).

These well-meaning folks make me question my decision and waffle a bit. But not this year!! Tough love people, tough love!! (okay, actually, I’m gonna wait until after 5 and then take action, LOL. ) 9 tomato plants are NOT necessary. Did I mention all that vegetation has become a hiding place for black widows??

Fall Garden Patch

Before you plant, prepare the soil by adding 6 inches of compost and mixing it in with a shovel or rototiller. Just remember, never use fresh manure, as e. coli bacteria is still present. Compost fresh manure for a year before adding it to your vegetable garden. (this does not include worm “manure” which you can use any time.)

What you grow depends on growing space and vegetable preference. Veggies need 6-8 hours of full sun and a nearby water source. Most fall veggies don’t need that much space, from a few inches apart (carrots) to 6-9″ apart (chard). Check the seed packet or 6 pack tag before planting.

Next, create a list and a plan. Your list of veggies may not fit in your space. If you don’t have enough space, find neighbors/friends who garden and arrange a barter! (i.e. trade beets for cauliflower). The choices for fall gardening are endless! I like to grow something new, along with my tried and true favorites. Here’s the usual fall/winter lineup:

Bok ChoyOnions
BroccoliSnow Peas
Mustard GreensCarrots
Collard GreensKohlrabi
LettuceSwiss Chard

The list is by no means done, there are others not mentioned, for example celery, turnips, parsnips, and rutabaga. But I’m just learning about how to create tables in html and I don’t feel like adding more rows, LOL.

Even though this blog post is about veggies, don’t forget to add edible flowers like Nasturtium, Johnny Jump-Ups and Calendula! For color and scent (not edible) sweet peas can’t be beat, and snapdragons and stock make great cut flowers. These plants provide places for natural enemies to hide and find nectar also.

Calendula petals add pizzazz to a salad!

Fall is a great time to plant perennial herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme. For annual herbs, plant parsley and cilantro. You can also find artichokes, rhubarb, and berries. Sometimes there are fruit trees left over from spring. More posts coming on how to plant other vegetables.

Caveat: for those gardening friends not in zone 9, I apologize that I do not have information on your climate. The basic principles I write about are the same, so that information should be helpful. Please feel free to leave comments about your struggles and triumphs with gardening, so we can learn more about where you garden. So far I’ve had emails from folks in New Jersey, Ohio and towns in California. It’s so cool to hear from everyone.

And also, contact your local Cooperative Extension Office or a local nursery to pick up tips. They may offer classes based on your region.





  1. I’m itching to plant also, but will have to wait until hubby starts seeds or Oct. is over, that is my deadline =) The tomatoes are going full bore! What do you recommend for Aphids in the green beans? We did an oil treatment, hope it helps. I was just thinking about the disconnect between seed catalog pictures and the end of season garden look -ha! Our squash surrendered to the nematodes. We had 8 squash and never had to give any away =) Thanks for the inspiration and don’t be afraid to toss! Tough love every time =)

    • Yep, I’d like to do some planting also, but the tomatoes are just getting going! Plus it’s still rather hot, sort of a late summer. You could get some carrots and other root vegetables started though! 😉

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