How to figure out what vegetables to plant in the Fall garden
Sweet carrots, broccoli that keeps on giving, tender round green beans, mustard that springs up year after year, Italian green beans that add comfort to stews,…..they feel like old friends. I can’t wait for September to get here and I can plant these veggies for my Fall garden here in central Florida. Those first garden filled seasons many years ago were one experiment after another. I had to learn by trial and error which varieties were best and how to care for them. I love experiments. Especially if they work!
But sometimes they don’t. Green beans that earn their name, “string” beans, can be so fibrous you won’t want them, carrots that are bitter, broccoli that yields only a snack-sized head, and mustard greens that hot and bitter….it’s no wonder so many beginner gardeners give up after the first season or two.
The southern zones are different
The trouble is, seed companies will sell you whatever seeds you want-when you want them. They can’t possibly counsel every gardener what will be best for them. The glowing reviews may be from a different zone and their garden can have a different type of soil. What works for one planting area may not work for another one. The free list for the top 7 veggies for a Fall garden lists the best varieties that have proven to be successful here in central Florida. They should also work for the whole zone marked “Gulf Zone”.
Gardening is definitely different in the Gulf zone from most places across the U.S. For example, I’m going to recommend that you plant green beans now while most areas have harvested theirs and they are pulling the plants up!
Not all varieties are the best one for your location
And if, learning the “weird” seasons we have here weren’t enough, there are so many varieties of each-it will make your head spin! How do you know which kind to buy?
These seven veggies are the ones that have proven to be the easiest and most likely to succeed, especially if you follow my instructions and tips. The FREE cheatsheet has the best variety and easy links to just two places to order them from. Easy Peasy.
If you live near Plant City, FL, you can visit Brownlee Citrus and Garden Center, at 3402 James L Redman Pkwy, Plant City, FL 33563. Mr. Brownlee has been helpful and has more selections of seeds than the ones recommended here. Click Here for his website:
Let’s get started!
These first two recommendations are susceptible to frost, but it’s worth the risk.
Plant green beans and squash no later than mid-September.
- First Place tie goes to two cousins of the same family: Traditional, round beans and flat Italian beans. Plant no later than mid-September. The packet of seeds may say they will be ready in 8 weeks but the difference of Autumn daylight delays the harvest. It will be 10-12 weeks before they are ready. (That’s why it’s a risk-a late November harvest is not unusual.) Plant ½ inch deep, 4-6 inches apart. Water daily. No need to thin if they are 4-6 inches apart. For a tutorial on how to harvest and preserve your green beans, click HERE.
- Second place goes to a zucchini squash that’s actually yellow. Seriously the best yellow squash there is. It tastes like yellow squash, but they are not as watery. Plant as early in September as possible, no later than mid-September. Plant 3-6 seeds, ½ inch deep In little circles that are spaced every 12 inches. Thin to one best plant in each circle when they are 6 inches tall. They should begin to produce in 8-10 weeks.
The following plants will grow happily through our winter, here in the Gulf zone, central Florida
Plant mustard, kale, broccoli from early September through early October. A late planting may interfere with your Spring garden if you need the same space.
3. Broad Leaf Mustard Greens
4. Kale, Flat leaf
Flat-leaf and semi-flat leaf are great varieties of kale and mustard greens. They are easier to wash and also have fewer places for insects to hide. These seeds are tiny. Roll them between your thumb and middle finger to sow in rows that are 12 inches apart. It’s easy to plant too deep and they won’t germinate. Gently “scuff” dry, loose soil over them. Water with a mister until they are 2 inches tall. Water normally after that. Thin mustard and kale as they grow so you can enjoy young plants to eat. Thin to 12 inches apart. Cut outer leaves off the stem and the rest will continue to grow. Harvest weekly at that point.
Brocolli seeds are also tiny. Sow and water them the same way as mustard. Thin to 3 inches apart when they are only 3 weeks old. Then, thin to 12-18 inches apart when they are 6-8 inches tall.
5. Broccoli that keeps on giving is the best bang for all the effort of growing them. My favorite become bushes that grow tall, have lots of large side shoots and continue producing smaller side shoots well into the Spring. “Head” broccoli because they are a little harder to grow.
Plant lettuce and carrots when the temperatures are consistently in the lower 80s.
Lettuce has the same planting instructions and care as mustard. They can be thinned to 6 inches apart. Plant a lot if you like young lettuce.
6. Lettuce mix. Do yourself a favor and buy the mix!
Carrots are a class all their own.
Carrot seeds are small, flat seeds. (Those are carrot seeds in the header and images.) They must be planted on raised beds at least 8 inches tall. To save space, make the bed 12-15 inches wide. You can sow two rows on your wide, raised bed. Make a “ditch” that is ½ inch deep at least 2 inches away from the edge. Carefully sow the seeds ¼ inch apart. Mist the soil carefully afterward and the misting will bury the seeds enough. (Do not bury them, do not add soil on top.) Continue to mist every day until they have their first true leaves. Mist often as the soil dries out. Thin to ½ inch apart. You can thin them out more as they grow. Young carrots are amazing. It will give the other carrots time to get big. You may water normally when the tops are 6 inches tall but be careful to not expose the carrot. Thin larger carrots 1 ½ to 2 inches apart.
7. Carrots, I prefer the ones that are long and straight. They grow to different widths. My preferred variety works well in sandy soil. They are very sweet. Besides, they sweetly posed for a family picture for this post!
Ya, Ya, I said 7. But….
8. My southern peeps would shoot me if I didn’t mention collards! My family and I much prefer mustard greens. Treat them exactly like you would broccoli.
For just a little
A garden journal is exactly what you need to keep track of what worked and what didn’t. All this is done for you! For just a little, you can get a printable document that’s got you covered from your seed wish list to your harvest records. There are 39 pages of charts, record keeping, garden map grids, and lots of pages for your garden journaling about the garden in general as well as the individual veggies and fruit that you are growing. It’s only $4.99! You can find out more details and order it here and get started right away. (A digital version is also available in the shop.)
What about tomatoes? Unless you have a greenhouse for mature plants, planting seeds now will give you maybe a 50-50 chance of harvesting tomatoes before it’s too cold. Buy a plant and try it, if you can cover it when frost threatens to kill it.
When you subscribe, I will send a weekly(ish) newsletter telling you exactly what I am doing in the garden that week and will give you a heads up for things to do soon.
Don’t forget to get the cheatsheet. It will save you time and you’ll have a better chance of harvesting veggies that work for central Florida and any other “gulf zone”.
Free cheatsheet for the best varieties and where to buy seeds online. Your subscription has the secret code to the library full of free workbooks.
May your garden grow and your hands get dirty! You’ll be healthier for it!
Veteran Homeschooler, avid gardener, and proud grandma
I believe that you can design a peaceful lifestyle while you homeschool, complete with a garden if you want, and meals that will make the best memories you ever could imagine!
I homeschooled seven kids through high school, starting them all with a lot of planned, hands-on activities. Then, I centered subjects around the activities. That gave them lots of room for their natural curiosity to be satisfied as they learned about God’s world.
Let me help you teach kids, grow food, and stay calm!
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. – Mat 6:33 CSB