While most of us envision fresh vegetable harvests happening in summer, it’s entirely possible to grow crops to be picked throughout the fall, well into winter, and potentially through to next spring. Now, these bounties won’t be the tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes, and green beans of summer, but they will be delicious, nutritious, and crisp fresh produce.
The key to planting a fall-winter garden is timing. As summer hits its peak and begins to wane, it’s time to begin the fall-winter garden. While the following crops can survive frosts and freezes, the plants need to be well established going into the cooler times. Once the weather cools off, the growth of these plants cools off, too, but the plants and crops live on.
To time your planting, check the first freeze date for your USDA Hardiness Zone, and count back the “days to maturity” listed on the seed packet so that the crops are maturing right around this date. Some plants provide food much faster than others, and that can be a valuable character trait when a gardener is late getting in a fall garden.
Now, here’s what can be can be grown for Thanksgiving harvests, even when the garden is going in late.
Arugula is aces on flavor, and it loves a little cool weather. It can also provide harvests with 30 days of being planted. This is a great green for a fresh salad, garnishes soups and stews, and adding to pizza.
Though other root vegetables can withstand cooler temperatures, none mature so rapidly as radish. Radishes can often be pulled up within four or five weeks of being planted. They are wonderful for a garden-fresh flavor late into the year.
Closer to the six-week mark, beets have a unique flavor and work well raw, pickled, roasted and so on. Plus, they are very closely related to chard, so they have similarly delicious greens to enjoy as well. Two crops for the seeds of one.
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Full-sized carrots take months to mature, but baby carrots—young carrots, not the fake baby carrots—can be harvested and enjoyed in just a few weeks. They make an attractive visual component served whole, and the greens can be used in place of parsley.
Like arugula, lettuce produces delicious leaves to enjoy in salads and sprinkled over other dishes for some added crunch and nutrition. Loose-leaf varieties also produce quickly because the leaves can be harvested individually as needed.
Of the cabbages, bok choy is the choice for fast production. Individual leaves can be harvested within a month, and certain varieties can reach whole-head maturity in the sixth week. It’s fantastic in soups, stews, and obviously stir-fries.
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These aren’t the bulky turnips we are accustomed to seeing at the supermarket; rather, they are about the size of golf balls and can be enjoyed in salads. What’s more, is that they include delicious turnip greens with them. Cook the root and greens together for a treat.
Commonly revered as a superfood, kale is easy to grow and can provide baby kale to harvest within about a month with mature leaves forming a month after that. It USDA Zones 7 and warmer, it will often survive the entire winter, provide good food the whole time.
Like its twin, the beet, chard will happily grow into the cooler months, and the varieties with vibrant colors are appreciated when seasonal cuisine gets a little earthier in tone. Baby chard can be harvested quickly.
Again, because leaves can be harvested individually, allowing gardeners to come back for more later, spinach—especially smooth-leaf spinach—provides quick greens. Then, spinach is a wintertime survivor, often kicking back into gear in early spring for another harvest.
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Collard greens are another leafy green that’ll work into the winter. Unlike the other greens listed here, collards will often thrive in heat, too. However, the flavor is improved with morning frosts, which takes away the bitterness. The leaves can be harvested individually.
Though not as well known in the US, mache is a classic green in Europe, particularly France. This is perhaps the most cold-tolerant of the plants listed, and it is very tasty both raw and cooked. Mache grows a little slower but will endure a little longer.
So, that’s a dozen fresh vegetables than can be harvested for a Thanksgiving feast even after that. In other words, summer may be coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean gardening has to, too. Grow a fall garden!
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