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How to Grow Your Own Autumn Garden

Updated: Oct 3, 2021

Did you know you could have delicious fresh greens growing well into November? Imagine picking a fresh green salad for Thanksgiving! YES, it really is possible! Last year zone 5b (Mid-Michigan) I brought a fresh from the garden salad to our family Thanksgiving! I was SO shocked and excited! Keep on reading to learn how to grow your own autumn garden.

The truth is cold season plants thrive in the spring and fall when the heat of summer is no longer in effect. Another great aspect of autumn gardening is that some of the plants return early spring creating an abundant and often times more delicious early spring crop. The cold weather and frosts are said to make greens taste even better due to the sugar build up in the plants!

Cold Season Crops

Cold weather plants that we plant or overwinter in our garden include (* means we haven’t tried it yet but it is suggested):

  • winter density lettuce, fire lettuce, and spring mix (early spring thru September)

  • spinach (direct sow early September)

  • kale (direct sow late August into September)

  • broccoli (start indoors mid-July and transplant end of august)

  • beets (direct sow early spring thru late summer)

  • cabbage (direct sow or start indoors and move out during colder weather)

  • carrots (direct sow early spring thru late summer)

  • snow or sugar peas (direct sow dwarf varieties early/mid-August)*

  • kohlrabi (direct sow or start indoors and move out during colder weather)

  • radish (direct sow early spring thru September)*

  • cauliflower (start indoors mid-July and transplant end of august)*

Kale we allow to overwinter and it comes back beautifully in the spring. Kale is a biennial so it will produce flowers during its second year. Fun fact – the flowers are edible and add a pretty touch to spring salads. We enjoy harvesting the “old” kale while our new spring planted kale establishes itself. Spinach also makes a booming return in the spring. Giant Winter Spinach and Bloomsdale Spinach are two of our favorites to plant both spring and fall.

Due to limited garden space and the heat of summer last year I started our lettuce, kale, and spinach end of August. I started most of them in 6-cell trays as our garden was small and I did not have room. I kept the cells outside and watered regularly. When our tomatoes were done producing, I pulled the plants and planted out our autumn seedlings. It worked really well! I did find that our produce was smaller in size than when we planted in the spring but delicious all the same.

Extending Your Growing Season

In order to grow your own autumn garden and extend the season even longer, caterpillar tunnels (row covers) are a MUST! They protect from frosts and allow the greens to grow even longer. The tunnels we have are so easy to set up and protect the plants in temperatures down to 24 degrees! I purchased our steel hoops from fruition seeds and our fabric from both fruition seeds and Amazon. The garden fabric has an added bonus that it keeps any lingering cabbage butterflies from laying eggs on the kale which means NO WORMS! We purchased our row covers from Amazon and our awesome spring steel wire hoops from Fruition Seeds.

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