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  • Writer's pictureMatt Suprunowicz

How to Plan for a Fall Garden!

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

How can we continue growing vegetables into the fall months?


This Lesson Plan is part the Home and Gardening modules of SustainEd Farms' virtual programming.

Background: Planning a Fall Garden

An all-too-common but false intuition is that gardens or farms are no longer productive into the fall months: crops are planted in the spring, and then harvested through the summer or all at once in the fall. On the contrary, sewing successional crops in the mid to late summer is a widespread practice, not only because many plants prefer or even need the cooler fall temperatures for proper growth and taste, but also to maximize the total output of the operation. Moreover, growers that elect to plant a fall crop mitigate insect and weed pressure and build soil health for future seasons. If sewings are timed and cared for correctly, the extended season is the perfect opportunity for a bountiful harvest of salad greens, various root vegetables, and several brassica species

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to...

  • Understand the timing aspects of planning a fall garden

  • Select species and varieties that will thrive in the fall

  • Prepare and care for a garden bed that has been planted out in the hot summer months

Academic Vocabulary

furrow /ˈfərō/ noun. - a small trench in the ground that is dug for plant seeds

mitigate /ˈmidəˌɡāt/ verb. - to reduce the impact of a certain action or occurrence


1. Gather your materials. You will need the following supplies:

rake · seeds (read on to see which crops to consider) · shovel or trowel · mulch · water

2. Watch the following Youtube video to see a demonstration of how to plan and plant a fall garden. Then, follow along with the remainder of the lesson by reading the steps below.

3. Identify the average first killing frost for your locality. The length of the growing season in your area, along with the average first frost date in the fall, will help you determine how many weeks in advance you should begin planning out your garden beds. Direct sewings and raising seedlings indoors for future transplants may begin as far back as 12 - 14 weeks from the first frost date.

When should I plant? … Every grower should review the growing instructions for any seed they intend to grow, which should include specific instructions for timing transplants or direct sewings. While this information is very important, also consider factors such as weather trends -- whether it has been cooler or warmer, on average, this season -- and if the particular plant in question could benefit from starting indoors. The most important determining factor, however, is the length of time it takes for the crop to mature to an edible state. After determining what you will plant (read on below), count back from your frost date the number of days it takes for the plant to reach maturity, and this will give you a timeline for sewing(s), which often begins in the mid to late summer (late July, August, and early September).

🥦What should I plant? … Hardy, frost tolerant or semi frost-tolerant plants that can withstand cooler temperatures in the fall are the varieties that should be in your toolbox of considerations. These include plants such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, radishes, kale, collards, beets, arugula, spinach, lettuce, and turnips. If you have multiple varieties to choose from for a given vegetable, select the variety that matures the quickest in order to ensure that your crop will be mature by the frost date.

💭Do you recall crop rotations? … If possible, avoid planting crops from the same botanical families on the same soil in successive years, or even within the year itself. Follow any plants that were removed during a summer harvest with successive fall crops seedings!

4. For direct sewings (outdoors), identify the relatively cooler and/or moister areas in your growing space. This may be in shaded areas under trees, between taller crops, or heavily mulched spaces. These locations should be reserved for any crops that take an especially long time to emerge, such as beets or carrots. Since germinating seeds are vulnerable to drying out during the warm summer months in which they are sewn, it is vital to keep beds with emerging seedlings well-watered, and the structural advantages of an already-cooler area will be helpful for the slow growers.

5. After determining when, where, and what to plant, remove any existing mulch from the garden bed.

6. Water the surface of the soil well, and then wait several minutes for the soil to absorb the water. This will give the seeds a jumpstart on germination.

7. Determine the spacing requirements of seeds between rows and within a row (locate information on the seed packet), as well as the recommended seeding depth of the plant. Use a tool -- the handle on a rake, a trowel, or even a shovel -- to dig properly spaced furrows (trenches) or small holes in the planting area.

8. Consult the seed packet to find how many seeds should be planted together, and begin to lay the seeds out in your trenches or holes. Lightly press the seeds into the moist ground to ensure good soil contact.

9. Use a rake, your hands, or another tool to pull displaced soil back over the top of the seeds. Replace any mulch that was temporarily removed, and add more mulch, if possible, to help retain moisture in the system.

10. Water thoroughly every day, and consider putting additional water on the seedlings during the hottest days of the summer months.

Additional Resources:

Download the PDF version of this lesson plan:

How to Plan and Plant A Fall Garden
Download PDF • 832KB

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