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Fall Vegetable Gardening: What to Plant in September

Are you the kind of gardener who thinks the season is over once your tomatoes ripen? Maybe life got in the way and you didn't plant a summer garden and think it's too late to grow anything? Well, I have good news for you. Fall vegetable gardening is a thing and here's what to plant in September.

Fall Vegetable Garden Swiss chard

The First Frost

The most important thing to consider when deciding what to plant in your garden in September is figuring out when the first fall frost happens in your gardening zone. For example, the Farmer's Almanac Frost Chart says that the first fall frost happens in Chicago on October 24. Figuring this date out is important because I know that if I plant seeds the first week of September (at the latest) I will have at least 54 growing days. Which is plenty of time for a lot of cool season crops.

Preparing the Garden for Fall Planting

Hate to the bearer of bad news but you're going to have to tear out the last of your summer crops if you need to make room for planting fall season crops and seedlings. That means tear out the tomatoes, peppers, melons and cucumbers that are limping along. Since your soil is depleted, it is a good idea to amend your garden soil with some fresh compost.  

Seeds to Sow in September for Fall Vegetable Gardening  

You won't have time to start seeds indoors for a fall vegetable garden so your best bet is to direct sowing seeds right in the soil. However, you should check with your local garden centers to see what seedlings and starts may be available in your area for planting.

To get a great fall harvest stick to crops that mature in 40 days or less. Fast-growing crops like greens and root crops will make planting a fall vegetable garden worth it and extend your growing season.

Green onions
Swiss chard
Brussels sprouts

Fall Vegetable Garden Cabbage

Caring for your Fall Garden

Don't let the cooler temps and rainy weather of fall lull you into a false sense of security. You will need to water your seedlings and starts. Newly amended soil looks darker, and sometimes you don't get enough rain to really soak the ground. The soil may look like it's really moist on the surface, but be really dry if you go deeper than an inch.

If you're really worried about a frost killing your fall vegetable garden, you can cover your crops with a blanket, sheets or buy dedicated row covers. If you're growing in a raised bed, you could even build a dedicated cold frame to protect your plants. However, many fall crops--like Swiss chard--will taste sweeter if they're allowed to be "kissed" by frosts and some--like spinach--could overwinter with a bit of protection.

What's your favorite plant to grow in your fall vegetable garden?