What to Grow in a Northern Fall Garden: In October

October planted fall garden

The fall garden

I am just not ready to give up the garden. It is October and the farmers and gardeners around me are turning over the soil and putting their gardens to bed for the winter. Just the other night the temperature dipped down to 23°F. But, nestled in their cozy beds, my plants were tucked in for the night and ready to grow again on the following sunny 45°F day.

Raised bed covered in blankets last minute to protect from the freeze
Blankets off the garden mid-morning

My fall garden

I have 3 raised beds designated to my fall garden, each in a different stage of growth. The garden bed pictured above is the one that has the most growth. The others will be ready to harvest later in the fall and early winter.

Freshly planted greens just popping up

When to plant

Usually I plant a fall garden in late July or early August. Carrots, beets, broccoli, cabbages, chard, kale and peas are all pretty standard fall garden crops to plant at that time. October is kind of late for planting, but many things can still be planted for harvest before it gets too cold, especially if you are willing to practice a little season extension with cold frames or low tunnels and hoops.

Green mizuna
Purple mizuna

What should I grow in my fall garden?

If you are planting in October, it might be too late for carrots and cabbages, but a whole assortment of greens can still be planted. My garden contains: mizuna, pak choi, lettuce, kale, dill, cilantro, radishes, yu choy sum, chinese aichi cabbage, beets and carrots (just in case).

Mizuna

The above 2 pictures show my thriving mizuna crop. Mizuna is a mustard green that when grown in cooler temperatures is very mild. I have planted 2 varieties of mizuna. It is so easy to grow, and always gives me a lush crop of salad greens! I have been picking it and munching on it straight from the garden. It is nice in a salad and the kids enjoy it with salad dressing.

Rouge d’hiver lettuce in the October garden

Lettuce

Lettuce is a fast growing green for the fall garden too. There are so many varieties of lettuce, you could plant a lot of different varieties and maybe even have colorful salads through December if the weather cooperates. I planted rouge d’hiver lettuce pictured above, and some red romaine and oakleaf lettuce in other beds. There are some varieties specifically bred for growing in the winter.

Check out this link to a Mother Earth News article on winter lettuce with some suggested winter lettuce varieties. Winter lettuce varieties

Radishes and carrots in the October garden

Radishes

Radishes are perfect for the fall garden! They grow fast and offer a quick garden addition that fills the root category. I planted several varieties in this fall garden in the hopes of increasing the number of radish varieties in my radish mini challenge. One variety promises to be ready for harvest in 18 days. I will have to check and see if the promise has been met. Today is the 18th day!!

You will see in between the radishes I did try planting some carrots just in case we have a warm sunny autumn! If there are no roots to harvest, the carrot greens are good in soups.

Purple mizuna, yu choy sum and jagallo kale in the October garden

Asian greens

Asian greens are great for growing in the fall garden. They are fast growing, tasty raw in salads or cooked in stir fries and soups. In this garden I planted pak choi, yu choy sum, and aichi chinese cabbage. Pictured above is yu choy sum, one of my favorites.

Pak choi in the October garden

Kale and chard

Kale and chard are good garden standbys for a fall garden. If you have mature plants they will continue through December usually with some protection. My mature plants were found by the neighborhood ground hog, and are not going to make it. But, newly planted kale and chard can still offer some nice variety in your fall meals. The leaves just won’t get quite as big.

Garden sage

Herbs

Many herbs are perennial and will keep on giving into the fall. My garden has oregano, thyme, sage and various mints that are still harvestable. But, I also planted some dill and cilantro in my protected beds. They are fast growing and do well in cool temperatures. They have added some nice flavor to our fall meals.

Baby dill

Finally Spinach

Spinach is great for planting late in the fall. Even if it doesn’t grow now, it often grows during the January mini thaw. I personally have a brown spinach thumb and can’t seem to grow nice spinach, so I don’t have any pictures to share. But, I do keep trying.

Having a fall garden is so rewarding. Along with the root cellar, canning jars and freezer full of preserved foods, the fresh greens and roots from the garden help get me through the long winter with some variety in my diet.

Garden bed ready for covering with plastic

I hope you will consider finding, buying, or begging some interesting garden seeds and growing some diversity with me, even in October! I would love to hear what you are growing in your October garden. Please share in the comments section below.


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