Welcome to The Ultimate Fall Planting Guide!
Let’s take advantage of August’s long days and September’s cooling temperatures to build a four-season garden for vegetables, fruits, flowers, trees, and shrubs. This is a soil focused guide that will keep you growing this fall and throughout the year.
Depending on your agricultural zone, this guide may help you plan your fall garden well into October. Given the current state of the climate, this guide may naturally be appropriate for zones 6 and 7 well into October.
Is the whole lingo of agricultural zones new to you? Not to worry! The USDA has great resources to bring you up to speed right here.
thinking about all the seasons when using the fall planting guide
No planting guide is complete without first finding our place in the seasons.
After the harvests of early August, the gardener’s attention falls to fall, so to speak. Empty garden beds and the desire to continue the harvest create the need to plant new gardens.
Gardening is an interesting endeavor that requires our focused attention on the present moment. It also asks us to think about the next season. Most seeds need 60-90 days to grow to maturity. If you want to harvest in October and November, you need to be planting in August and September.
With four-season gardening, the entirety of the growing year rests in our ability to build healthy soil, plan wise crop rotations, and protect plants from weather and pests.
This Ultimate Fall Planting Guide will take all this into account, and more!
Read on to learn about:
- soil requirements for fall gardens.
- why it is important to plan.
- seed starting for fall gardens.
- regional planting guides for vegetables, flowers, trees, and shrubs.
- the importance of perennials and overwintering crops in the four-season garden.
- why it is important to use native species when possible.
- cover crops and the fall gardens.
I’ve also created a fall garden playlist on Spotify to keep you motivated. Skip to the end of the post if you are needing to get your garden groove on. I’ve also created a fall garden playlist on Spotify to keep you motivated. Skip to the end of the post if you are needing to get your garden groove on. 💃
See, I promised ultimate and I’m delivering ultimate!
This site has affiliate links of trusted items I recommend for fall garden planting.
time to tend to your soil
Summer growing has taken nutrients from your garden beds. Fall is the perfect time to amend and restore the soil, even as you plan to plant for fall and winter harvests.
This is also a great time of year to use layered mulching to create new garden beds or extend existing ones.
You may choose to get your soil tested, or to use a home test kit. I simply work with the assumption an all-purpose organic fertilizer will get the job done in my garden beds.
This fall planting guide has two areas of focus for tending to your soil: radical weeding, and layered mulching.
In many regions across the United States, fall soils are moist and cooler. As mentioned earlier, there is often a lot of open space in the garden come August and September because early crops have been harvested and no successions planned.
August and September are great times of year to get to the root of your weed problem. Work your soil with rakes and your hands looking for root masses of pernicious weeds like wild morning glories (we call them choke weed), Johnson grass, and other unwelcome plants in the vegetable and flower garden.
Layered mulching is simply the act of piling up compostable materials on existing or new garden beds. The mulch will decompose over the winter months, and come spring you have a beautiful bed with little to no weeds, restored and ready for planting. Yes, you can plant directly into these beds, no tilling required!
The earthworms cheer!
Here are the steps to layered mulching:
- Make sure the area you are covering is moist. If August was dry, definitely water the night before you take on this project.
- Layer these materials on the designated area, pretty much in this order: cut grass, dry soil amendments or organic fertilizer, manure, newspaper (no glossy pages), more manure or organic compost, a very thick layer of hay or stable bedding, more compost or wood chips. (We prefer wood chips because of high winds during winter months in this area.)
- Once built, water the area once more.
That’s it. By spring the garden will be plant ready!
Further reading: Toby Hemenway on layer mulching (a personal garden hero I often forget to mention.) I’ve used his book, Gaia’s Garden, for the past 10 years to build thriving, lower maintenance garden beds. Recommended!
With all those empty garden beds, taking a day or two to plan the fall garden is probably a good idea. To get you started, click here to download the Garden Plan Worksheet from my Kitchen Garden Planner and Journal. It’s a free gift to help you get started on the ultimate fall planting guide with greater success.
If you like working that way, click here to purchase the eBook planner. It’s forever good. No dated pages. Endless refills of all the worksheets. You’ll love it!
I begin by giving the bed a theme or a place in my crop rotation plan. Then, I draw it to scale on the worksheet, usually 2-3 different sheets. Then, I let my imagination roam. What plants will be best placed at the north side of the bed where shadows will fall behind? What plants thrive in direct sunlight and can go to the south side of the bed? Where will vining plants go? You get the drift…
when to start seeds
You should start seeds for fall planting in August. Prioritize vegetables that take a long time to maturity, like Brussels sprouts. Start quick-growing plants like lettuces in 2-week successions. That being said, there are plenty of vegetables whose seeds can be started in September. See growing guides below.
I rely on spreadsheets tracked over time to create reliable planting schedules. This fall planting guide suggests you begin writing down what you do this year to see what works best for your microclimate.
the best vegetable planting guides by region
Regions and zones, we talk about them all the time in the monthly garden tips here on the blog. Since this is the ULTIMATE fall planting guide, I thought I’d pull together trusted resources by region to help you plan the best fall garden ever!
Every state has a Cooperative Extension that offers resources like the ones linked below. If you don’t see your region on the list, a quick Google search for ‘vegetable planting guide for [my state, county] will most likely get you what you need. Planting guides from sites like Lorrie Season are highly personal. I share mine so community members can see how to plan out from their frost dates. Once you’ve gardened for a few years, with tracking and notes you can create a spreadsheet of optimal planting times for every season specific to your micro-climate.
Until then, use these guides as trusted sources to get you started successfully.
my favorite flower garden guides
I’m a new flower gardener! And, I love it.
Learning how to install annual flowers, and plan longterm locations for perennials has expanded my knowledge and joy in gardening.
For me, flowers are all about wildlife. The more flower gardens I plant, the more butterflies and songbirds come to visit.
It’s also about color, texture, and height. You can do so much with flowers aesthetically. A flower garden is a living pallet for the artist in every gardener.
Unfortunately, university extensions do not offer resources for flower gardens similar to the ones above for vegetable gardens. A good Google search will get you plenty of fall flower garden ideas and recommendations. Let me just take a minute to share my must-have, go-to, new-flower-gardener resources!
trees and shrubs in the fall garden
Fall is a great time to tend to soil because temperatures drop and soils tend to be moist and well-drained. This workability of the soil in the fall garden also makes it the perfect time to plant trees and shrubs.
I bought a few bare-root trees back in the spring that have been potted up for a few months. They’ll be planted this fall, probably in September. In my region (6a) we can plant trees and shrubs well into late October.
Here are recommended resources for learning how to plant trees and shrubs in the fall, as well as which species are best for fall planting.
I love this post because it recommends species specifically for fall and/or spring planting.
Bareroot trees are an investment. Be sure you know best care practices before planting.
Focus on shrubs for the fall garden.
perennials and overwintering crops in the fall garden
Perennial crops are those that grow year after year with one planting. Overwintering crops are planted in the fall and are harvested late-spring and early summer. These crops are less labor-intensive and more bug resistant than the annual vegetable crops that commonly populate the kitchen garden.
You can install many perennial crops in October. Existing ones will need compost and mulching to get the most from their winter slumber. Plant overwintering crops in October and November for a June-July harvest. Think berry and asparagus patches, neat rows of garlic and shallots, rhubarb and horseradish beds. At Stony Ridge Farm, we are dedicating more of our growing area to these crops. It’s a more sustainable approach to the market garden given the fact that Bob and I aren’t getting any younger!
Here are 7 perennial and overwintering crops to consider for your ultimate fall garden planting endeavors:
raspberries and blackberries
For existing berry beds, be sure to trim raspberry and blackberry canes that are at least 2 years old each fall. We cut ours back to about 4 inches above the soil line. Then, we add organic compost to the soil and mulch to keep the weeds down.
To start a berry patch, you’ll need to use the winter months to do your research and plant in the spring. Plant the berries in a raised bed with rich, well-drained soil after the threat of frost has passed. You’ll want to trellis the plants as they grow. Do not cut back the canes of new berry plants until the second fall to let the roots get established.
Thin and weed your strawberry patch each fall. If you thin your strawberries in October you can use the runners to establish a new bed. You can also use them to fill in bald patches in your existing beds. I have found that strawberries are remarkably resilient.
As a side note, I fertilize my strawberries in the spring.
Weed and nourish your asparagus bed each fall. After weeding we add organic compost to the established asparagus bed. Install a new bed of asparagus in the spring. Yes, it really does take 3 years for the first harvest. This allows time for the roots to get well established. We’ll be creating a new bed in the spring as our current one has withered over time.
Asparagus is one of those vegetables I love to show visitors. to the farm. The stalks that we eat in the spring grow very tall and grassy once the harvest stops. This is new information to many people. They look at the asparagus bed in wonder.
Harvest horseradish in the fall. Grate and ferment the root to enjoy its hot-tangy flavor throughout the year to come. Weed, add compost and a thin layer of mulch to the patch after your harvest. Remember, when harvesting, to leave enough root to keep the plant well established.
Mint, oregano, sage, thyme, lovage are a few popular and tasty perennial herbs in the kitchen garden. These and many other herbs don’t need much more than a good weeding and mulching in October. Woody herbs like sage may benefit from being cut back after the first frost. Be sure to dry the clippings for your Thanksgiving recipes!
Early fall is a perfect time to plant perennial herbs and cool weather herbs like cilantro. Check out this post to learn more.
Rhubarb crowns are easily planted in the fall. They will use the winter months to establish themselves. You should be able to take your first harvest the following fall, given they’ve had plenty of water throughout that first year.
I tend to grow my rhubarb from seed, and that is a spring project.
garlic, shallots, and walking onions
Plant garlic, shallots, and walking onions after the first frost. They will slowly grow throughout the winter months and jump into full growth in the early spring. The shallots and garlic will be ready for harvest around the following 4th of July. Harvest the walking onions anytime after they begin looking like a scallion.
Plant these overwintering crops in a raised bed with rich, well-drained soil. Once you see the sprout of the plants, cover with leaf mulch for the winter. This will keep moisture in and weeds out and make your spring garden that much easier to manage. The composted leaves are easily taken into the garden bed come spring.
Be sure to include as many native species in your fall garden planting. Native plants are well adapted to the climate and soil conditions of your region. They require less maintenance and provide cover for native bugs and birds.
As with most of the recommendations in this Ultimate Fall Planting Guide, natives will adapt well to their new home when given the fall and winter months to get established.
Native species are beautiful, and I find them somewhat exotic when they return each year to the landscaping around my front porch.
The US Forest Service has a nice overview of gardening with native species at this link.
If you want to learn more, check out these resources:
Cover crops are where beauty and functionality meet in the four-season garden. These crops are plants, and plant blends, that stabilize and nourish garden soil during off-seasons.
Cover crops fix nitrogen, break through the till pan, reduce runoff, and attract beneficial insects.
Another name for cover crops is green manure. This refers to the ability to add the crops back into the garden as compostable organic material. If you till you can simply cut the cover crop and then till it into the garden bed. If your garden is no-till, you crimp the plant (flatten it) and leave it lay atop the garden bed as a mulch.
My favorite cover crop is crimson clover. It is a beautiful nitrogen fixer that feeds the bees!
SARE, Sustainable Agriculture, Research and Education, has this excellent overview of the subject.
Click here to see the learning library on cover crops over at Johnny’s Seeds.
The ultimate fall gardening playlist
This playlist will keep you rocking in the garden all season long!
Set time aside to Celebrate the Fall Equinox
The fall equinox is exact on Monday, September 23, 2019, at 3:50 am. Be sure to set time aside to learn about this seasonal event and create a way to welcome the fall season!
Click here to see my 5 recommended ways to celebrate the fall equinox this September.
monthly garden tips
If you love, love, love this fall planting guide, you’ll really dig the treasure trove of garden tips and tricks on this site!
Click the hotlinks below to be taken to month specific garden tips from Lorrie Season.
January | February | March | April | May | June
Growing Winter Greens Indoors | Microgreens and Sprouts
No time for growing a fall garden? No problems!
Click here to learn how to grow your salad greens indoors. I go over sprouts, microgreens, shoots, and we even touch on outdoor spinach.
a growing community
If you enjoy seeing life through the lens of the changing seasons, I invite you to stay connected. This is a community of activist-oriented gardeners, cooks, and nature lovers.
If you want a loving community to be a part of your seasonal life, please do anyone (or ALL!) of the following:
- Sign up for the newsletter and get my herbal teas and tisanes recipe book for FREE! Tea is always a welcome addition to any time in the kitchen.
- Join our FREE Facebook group where we’re always talking gardens and kitchens.
- Follow me on Instagram and watch the seasons unfold on my 5-acre homestead in Harpers Ferry, WV.
Walking onions and perennial herbs.
Spinach and kale.
Plant cover crops or cover with leaf mulch.