How to Start a Fall Garden - in July

How to Start a Fall Garden (In July)

This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

In the hot, busy gardening days of July, it may seem weird to think about beginning a fall garden...but if you want to extend your harvesting days all through autumn and perhaps through winter, NOW is the time to start!

Why Plant a Fall Garden?

To many people, vegetable gardens are a summer - and perhaps a spring - thing. But there are many benefits to planting a fall garden.

* Some types of vegetables grow better during the cool of autumn. Example: Have you ever struggled to grow spinach, or does your broccoli and cauliflower bolt (go to flower) before you can harvest it? Try growing these plants in the fall!

* Some vegetables taste better when they are grown in autumn. When frost hits kale or carrots or parsnips, for instance, the sugars found naturally in those veggies become more concentrated. This is God's all-natural version of anti-freeze...and it makes those veggies taste sweeter.

* Crops grown in the fall tend to "hold" for much longer than those same crops grown in the spring or summer. In other words, you don't have to pick everything the moment it matures; instead, let the garden act as a refrigerator so you can harvest as needed throughout the cooler months.

* Kale and, especially, collards will continue to thrive even after some snow. Certainly, they won't continuing growing, but they'll be held so you can harvest them in winter. Assuming you don't get large amounts of snow, some fall crops will live in the garden until your spring garden starts producing.
Carrots grown in my fall garden.

* Autumn gardens have fewer weeds, fewer pests, and fewer diseases to battle. Plus, many of us enjoy gardening when it isn't blazing hot outside!

* And, of course, having a fall garden means you can grow that much more food for your family.

What Can You Grow in a Fall Garden?

Cool-season veggies are where it's at in the fall garden. These include: Asian greens, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cilantro, collards, green beans, green onions, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard greens, parsley, parsnips, peas, radishes, rutabagas, Swiss chard, spinach, and turnips.

One thing I don't recommend is buying starts at a nursery or big box store. First of all, this is more expensive than starting plants from seed. Secondly, it can be difficult to find cool-season seedlings in July and August. Thirdly, if you start your plants from seed, you'll have access to more quick-maturing varieties, which is of the utmost importance when fall gardening. If, for instance, you plant peas that mature in 40 days, you're less likely to find success than if you plant peas that mature in 30 days. This is because fall gardening is all about getting your vegetables to mature before the first killing frost.

Getting the Timing Right for a Fall Garden
A few crops that do well in a fall garden.

The most common problem gardeners have with fall gardening is that they plant their seeds too late to get a harvest. The way to fix that is to do a little planning in July.

1. To begin, you must know when the average first killing frost is for your area. You can simply call your extension office for this information (find your local office here) or you can Google "first frost" and your ZIP code.

2. Now grab the seed packet for a veggie you want to grow in your fall garden. Find the "days to maturity." All good-quality seed packets should contain this information, but if for some reason you're struggling to find it, Google the name of the variety and look at online seed catalogs that provide this vital info.

3. Using a calendar and beginning at the date of your first average killing frost, count backward the number of days the vegetable takes to reach maturity. For example:

This year, I want to plant Bull's Blood beets in my fall garden. They take about 64 days to reach maturity. Since my average first frost is around November 21st, I need to plant my beet seeds no later than September 18th.

4. Next, add buffer time. For a variety of reasons, plants can take longer to mature than the seed packet indicates. I like to add at least a week - so for my beets, I count backward seven more days to reach a planting date of September 11th.

5. Mark this date on your calendar.

6. Repeat with every variety of vegetable you want to plant in your fall garden.

Fall is my favorite time of year to grow cauliflower.
Seed Starting Tips for the Fall Garden

While a number of cool-season veggies can be direct-sown into your garden beds (including spinach, peas, radishes, turnips, rutabagas, beets, carrots, parsnips, and green beans), some seeds have a difficult time germinating during hot summer weather. Many plants in the cabbage family and many salad greens don't germinate if it's warmer than 85 degrees F. To combat this issue, you'll need to start those seeds indoors - just as you would if you were growing them for a spring or summer garden. (To learn more about starting seeds see "The Proverbs 31 Woman Woman Guide to Seed Starting.")

Finding Space for the Fall Garden

One difficulty you may encounter is where to put your fall veggies. After all, when it's time to plant them, you'll still have all your summer crops in the garden, producing strongly. There are a few ways to deal with this:

* Plant your fall veggies in flower pots and buckets with holes drilled into the bottoms. An advantage of this method is it makes your fall garden mobile, so on very hot days, you can move your cool-season veggies to some open shade.

* Plant cool-season vegetables beneath your summer crops. For example, lettuce can do very well under tomatoes or peppers. In fact, those larger plants will help shade the lettuce from the sun, which will make the lettuce happy.

* Plant in flower spots. For example, when I lived in the suburbs, I had a brick planter directly in front of my living room window. When it was time to plant my fall garden, I pulled out the flowers and planted cabbages in their place.
My flower planter filled with cabbage.

Ideally, of course, in the future you'll have at least one bedding area left empty, set aside for your fall garden.

Other Tips for a Great Fall Garden

* Seeds need moisture in order to germinate. The heat of summer can make that challenging, especially when you're direct-sowing in the garden. To combat this problem, try using a shade cloth. This can be something designed for the purpose (like this), or it can be just a board raised over the
Green beans grow well in the fall.
 seeding bed with rocks or bricks.

* Use mulch to help keep the soil moist for your cool-season veggies.

* Use extra caution when moving cool-season seedlings into the garden, since summer sun can shock and kill them. Give them plenty of time in the outdoor shade before moving them into the sun, and consider using a shade cloth or an overturned pot to give them a little shelter until they fully adjust. (Learn more about this process here.)

* Give special attention to irrigating your fall crops while summer temperatures are still high. Letting them dry out too much may stall their growth.

* You can extend the time your fall veggies actually grow (rather than "hold") by covering them with a small hoop tunnel, like this.


  1. Man you are doing great and so is your Blog!!
    Wish you good luck for future!

  2. This is the first year that our garden totally flopped, thanks largely to the higher number of chickens we have this year than previous years. I was hoping to put in a fall garden but haven't moved my beds yet; however, it's encouragement like your post that motivates us to try again. We'll see!