14 Crops to Plant in Fall for a Spring Harvest

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Have you heard of “overwintering” crops? This is a process in which you sow seeds in autumn to harvest the next spring. Many seeds not only survive in cooler temperatures, but require heat after a period of really cold to speed up their germination process.

There are many benefits to sowing in the fall, not the least of which is the fact that you’ll have less work to do a few months down the road. Let’s take a look at 14 crops you can plant this fall for a great spring harvest!

1. Asparagus

If you’re more of a patient variety, consider planting some asparagus this fall. Like all perennials, these plants will still need at least three years to establish themselves. It follows the “sleep, creep, leap” pattern all perennials require as they develop their own root structure and explode into action.

That said, these are some of the first vegetables to make themselves known in the spring. You may have only got a few spears in the spring harvest the first year, but when all the other vegetables are still asleep, those little green spikes are an absolute delight to watch.

2. Black

It is one of the hardiest vegetables out there and loves to overwinter. In fact, you can plant kale three times during a growing season. It needs cool weather to thrive, so you can plant seeds as soon as the soil softens slightly in the spring. Harvest this first batch before summer begins.

Plant the next batch in late summer for a fall harvest, and the third batch shortly before winter settles in. You can even plant it after the first frost of the season! Simply plant the seeds in nutrient-rich soil about 1/2 inch deep. Then put a thick layer of mulch on top, and it will burst into action the next spring.

3. Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts love the cold. In fact, a cold snap makes them taste better. If you toss the seeds into the soil in the fall, they will germinate and grow over the winter.

In warmer areas, such as USDA Growing Zones 8 and up, you can plant them in the fall and harvest in early spring. In Zones 6-7, you can plant them in a cold frame to grow over the winter for a spring harvest.

4. Collards

Treat collards the same way you would kale, and plant them in nitrogen-heavy, compost-rich soil. Give them a nice mulchy blanket and help the cold winter months break down the seed cover.

By next spring, you’ll have large, fleshy leaves to turn into braised green dishes and luscious wraps.

5. Swiss Chardo

Chard behaves very similarly to collards, although I’ve had better luck planting seeds after the last frost date rather than earlier. Otherwise, a sudden gust of warm wind can cause them to sprout as a withered, late autumn crop.

6. Spring Onions

These are aptly named because they spring into uh… You pick them when they are young and before they mature into full bulbs. They sleep well throughout the winter and will stick their heads out of the soil once the weather warms up.

Aim to sow seeds only 1/2 inch deep from the date of the first frost. Cover the seeds with compost and mulch, and you’ll be ready to enjoy onions next spring.

7. Garlic

Depending on your location and the type you are growing, garlic planting times vary. In general, if you live in a cooler climate, it’s best to plant in autumn. You’ll need compost-rich, well-draining beds for garlic to thrive, so it’s best to use raised beds or containers.

Aim to plant your garlic about six weeks before your region’s first expected frost date. See our full article on how and when to plant garlic for additional tips. That way, you’ll be sure you’re getting the best spring harvest possible.

8. Carrots

Root vegetables need rich, “fluffy” soil to grow well. Work well-aged compost and sandy loam into your soil or raised beds about a week before your last frost date.

Then plant your carrot seeds about 1/3 inch deep, cover with soil, and then cover it with a few inches of straw. This mulch will protect your seeds from the cold and speed up their germination next spring.

9. Beats

Prepare your beet beds the same way you would for carrots, whether they are small or large varieties. Plant those spiky little seeds 1/2 inch deep and tuck them in for their winter nap. If you don’t want a batch of autumn beets coming up, dig holes in the soil ahead of time. Then sow the seeds immediately after the first frost so they don’t germinate.

Beets planted in the fall also benefit from a blanket of straw mulch, although you can also use leaves and wood chips.

10. Turnip

Treat turnips like carrots and beets. These root veggies aren’t as popular as their sweet cousins, but they are remarkably versatile. In addition, turnip greens are highly nutritious and can provide significant nutrition in early spring before other foods are available.

Moisten your turnips thoroughly with high-quality straw and you’ll be well fed in early spring.

11. Rutabagas

Rutabagas are a cross between a turnip and a cabbage. As such, you can only imagine how well they flourish when planted in the fall. They require well-draining soil, but they are also heavy feeders. As a result, you will need to add additional compost to the soil before planting in it.

Since these roots are large, sowing early gives them extra time to develop. In addition, you may find that rutabagas planted in the fall are sweeter than those planted in the spring.

12. Winter Radish

While most people plant small radishes for an early harvest, winter radishes are another breed entirely. Look for German, Russian, Japanese, and Scandinavian varieties that specifically have “winter” in their names. A good example is the Schwartz Runner winter radish (meaning “black and round”). These black-skinned radishes are large and fleshy, with a lovely fiery bite.

They can thrive in almost any soil, but fertile soil with plenty of sand is best. Sow the seeds about 1/2 inch deep and cover lightly. Lay the straw down as mulch and allow the seeds to ripen happily during the colder months.

13. Peas

Most people sow peas as soon as the soil thaws, but some may avoid autumn sowing instead. This is more of an option for those who have mild winters, but zones 6 and below can do the same if they plan properly.

Well-draining soil is important, as pea seeds will rot in the ground if their surroundings are too moist. Work potassium- and phosphorus-rich compost into the soil along with sand and perlite. Then sow the seeds 1 inch deep and cover with straw mulch. As soon as the soil becomes soft enough that you should see tiny grains of pea sprouts to break off.

14. Sada Spinach

Standard annual spinach varieties such as ‘Bloomsdale’ and ‘Monstreaux de Virofle’ can be harvested when young or mature. These are best planted in spring or autumn which are harvested within a few months. The perpetual foster, however, is another animal entirely.

This is a perennial “cut-and-come-again” variety that keeps coming back for ages. Sow it in a nitrogen-rich, compost-filled, well-draining bed with lots of sand. Aim for a week or two before your area’s frost date for best results, and press the seeds down 1 inch.

Cover well and add mulch, and be prepared to be amazed when the ground thaws again next spring.

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