14 Crops to plant in September for a Fall Harvest
Fall is by far the best season to grow many beloved vegetables in America's home gardens! The milder temperatures and increased rainfall mean less plant stress while pest pressure is decreased. This means many plants that have succumbed to pests attack during the heat of summer can now thrive in their absence.
Many gardeners don't take full advantage of the Fall season and it's such a shame! Most of the crops recommended on this post have a 40-60 days to harvest window and are frost tolerant, meaning they can be sown in any growing zone in the continent US. Gardeners should always check out their first frost date and to see how many days are left in their growing season before sowing to avoid disappointment.
Here is a list of 14 crops that can be planted in September for a bumper yield of flavorful, nutritious garden harvest.
The ultimate cool to cold weather crop, Spinach can be finicky when its optimal growing conditions are not met. Luckily for gardeners savvy enough to make the best of the Fall growing season, Spinach grows at its best when sown directly in ground in the relative heat of the summer's end and matured into the cool to cold weather of Fall and Winter.
Gardeners in any growing zones in the US can start spinach in September and expect a sizeable harvest 45 to 60 days later. Spinach will cruise right through the first frost, increasing in quality as the temperature dip lower and lower.
In our Connecticut gardens, we grow Monstrueux de Viroflay Spinach both in our protected and unprotected beds right through winter. A deep cover of snow stops the growth of the plants, but they are not killed by the cold. Instead, they overwinter healthily until Spring when they spring back to life and give an extra early crop of delicious and nutritious leaves.
Spinach seeds germinate their best when soil temperature dip into the lower sixties at night and the ground is uniformly moist. Spinach plants are heavy feeders and benefit from an addition of nitrogen rich organic fertilizer before sowing. We love to amend our soil with fresh compost before sowing and feed the plants with liquid fertilizer every month until the end of November, when the reduced daylight slows growth to a crawl.
A supremely cool to cold weather crop, lettuce has lots to offer when grown in the Fall. The plants germinate quickly and grow well into the cooler season, producing high quality leaves with fewer risks of bolting.
Gardeners in any zones can grow lettuce when sown in September. Those living in colder climates can opt for particularly cold-resistant varieties such as Landis Winter, Rouge D'Hivers and Devil's Ears. Those will cruise right through the first frost and into deep freezes. A simple row cover will keep special varieties like Landis Winter Lettuce alive and well all through Winter.
Mibuna and Mizuna are two great crops to plant in September for gardeners in any growing zone in America. As members of the Brassica family, they are incredibly cold tolerant and will cruise right past the first frost without losing a beat. In fact, their flavor, pigmentation and texture will only improve as the temperature drop to lower levels.
Mibuna is a wonderful green with a mild flavor and a crunchy, delightful texture. Early Mibuna grows incredibly fast, with a full sized harvest in 35-40 days. Baby greens are especially delicious and mild flavored.
Mizuna grows fast with only average fertility and produces high yield of tasty leaves with a nice crunch and a mild peppery flavor. Both Early Mizuna and Red Streak Mizuna grow at the same rate and can be planted along with the rarer Crimson Tide Mustard to produce a stunning Asian Greens bed, combined or not with Early Mibuna.
All those are ideal as “cut and come again” greens and produce at least 3 successions of high quality leaves.
Kale is a classic cold weather crop and for good reason. Kale grown in the Fall and Winter is tastier and faces less pest problems than Spring and Summer grown kale. The flavor only becomes sweeter when the plant endures a few frost.
Every variety of Kale is frost resistant and some varieties can even survive unprotected all winter in Zones 7 and above, producing a Spring crops during the period known as the Hunger Gap in March and April, before traditionally sown Spring crops have a chance to mature.
Few sight are as stunning as that of a large, mature mustard plant. Mustard greens grown in the Fall are particularly beautiful as the cool weather deepens the pigmentation of the leaves and stem and allows for larger plants to prosper with little risk for bolting.
Mustards are very resilient, and few pests attack them, making them an attractive crop for gardeners who feel tired of the constant battle with disease, insects and other pests such as deer and rabbits.
Swiss Chards can be sown in September and enjoyed as baby greens in Zones 6 and below when grown unprotected. They grow well in the cooler weather and withstand the bursts of heat so often experienced in the Fall with no problem.
In Zones 7 and above they will have time to mature into full sized greens and can survive unprotected all winter most years.
Large plants such as Fordhook Giant and Lipstick Swiss Chard make a giddy sight in the Fall garden, with they lustrous, crimply leaves and shiny, delicious stems.
Perpetual Spinach is another great choice as it stays comparatively smaller and produces round, flat leaves with a taste similar to true spinach without the fussiness. It grows very well into the colder weather and is more cold resistant than other Swiss Chard but cannot survive into Zones 7 and under without protection.
Rapini or Spring Raab is a lesser-known cousin to the popular broccoli and is a wonderful choice for direct sowing in the garden in September.
The plants are heavy feeder and need plenty of nitrogen to ensure a fast growth and the mild bitter flavor typical of this Italian specialty. They grow well and are easy to care if not allowed to dry out or suffer from prolonged heat stress.
Fall is the ideal season to grow Rapini and with a harvest in about 45 days, this nutritious and gourmet crop should not be overlooked.
Few herbs are as beloved and delicately flavored as Chervil. This classic French herb grows fast and easily in the Fall and throughout Winter in Zones 6 and above. Gardeners in Zones 5 and below cannot overwinter this plant without protection, but can still hope to harvest the delicately licorice-flavored leaves well past the first frost date and into the first snow falls.
Chervil readily self-sows and is a great choice for gardener with little space. It grows in containers very well.
Parsley is a true super food and a very cold resistant herb. Two types of parsley are typically found in home gardens, Triple Moss Curled Parsley and Giant of Italy Flat Leaf Parsley. A rooted parsley known as Hamburg Rooted Parsley is a lesser-known version, but one of the most ancient vegetables in European cultivation.
Triple Moss Curled Parsley is the most tolerant parsley and can be direct sown and harvested well into Winter in Zones 6 and above. Giant of Italy Flat Parsley grows faster and can be harvested all through winter in Zones 8 and above and sometimes overwinters in Zone 7.
Dill is a well known herb and most often associated with warm weather crops, but prefers the cooler weather of Fall. It will be slower to bolt when grown in the Fall and will produce larger yields of tasty, feathery leaves compared to its Summer grown.
Bouquet Dill is easy to sow directly into well worked soil of average fertility and grow with few pest problems, especially in the Fall when butterflies like the Black Swallowtail are no longer reproducing.
Dill will not overwinter in Zones where temperatures drop below 25 F, but will tolerate frosts easily.
Cilantro, often associated with warm weather, is in fact a cool weather crop. The plants will produce abundantly when planted in September and grown in the Fall and have a better flavor and texture.
Cilantro is frost resistant and can withstand temperatures as low as 20F and can sometimes overwinter in Zones 6 with no protection. It will overwinter in Zones 7 and above with no problem.
Turnips are an often misunderstood vegetables and many gardeners have failed growing them in the Spring and Summer. Fall is by far the best season to grow this ancient crop and produces sweeter, milder roots with a better texture when protected from high temperatues.
Varieties like Boule D’Or Turnip, an old French heirloom, offer incomparable flavor and texture when sown in September and allowed to withstand a few frost in the Fall.
Classics like the Purple Top White Globe Turnip will yield and taste at their best when grown fast into high fertility soil and harvested after the first frosts.
Both varieties of turnips produce high quality edible tops that should not be waste and are especially nutritious.
Beets often have a reputation for a difficult crop as the roots tend to become woody and earth-flavored when grown into hot weather.
The best way to crop beets is to provide them with a well worked soil, amended with compost. When sown in September, beets will grow into the cooler months, storing sugar into their roots. They will also yield larger roots without becoming woody, as well as high quality tops with a nice flavor comparable to Swiss Chard, to which they are closely related.
Beets can also be grown solely for the purpose of their edible, delicious tops and the baby greens can be harvested in as little as 35 days. Allow for 60 days for full sized roots and plan your harvest to allow the plants to stay in the ground for at least a few weeks past your first frost date.
Beets such as Golden Detroit Beets and Chiogga Beets, which can be finicky to grow in warmer zones, will cruise happily in the Fall and Winter. For a fast turnaround, chose early maturing varieties like Early Wonder Tall Top Beets, which produces full sized roots with a high sugar content in a comparatively short period of time.
Carrots are a staple in our plates and our gardens and Fall is an ideal season to grow those tasty, sweet roots.
Carrots need only average fertility, but require constant moisture and a deep, well worked soil to produce high quality roots. They make a wonderful succession crop to hungry plants like Summer Squash and produce a high yield with little space.
Carrots can also be grown in containers and do produce edible tops, which are rarely taken advantage of.
Want even more ideas on what to grow for your garden? Look up this wonderful blog post with more than 60 expert gardeners.