The 19 Best Cool-Weather Crops for a Productive Fall Garden

Fall is my favorite time of year! As the air becomes crisp and fresh, I find myself re-energized and geared up for a second round of gardening! For me, fall growing has become a fantastic way to continue to bask in the garden magic for much longer each year.

A close up of fall veggies freshly harvested grom the garden including kohlabri, carrots, turnips, and beets.

There are many delightful crops that grow well in a fall garden. In fact, many species and varieties, such as various cole crops, become even more tender and flavorful when planted for a fall harvest. Read on to learn about some of my favorites!

1. Kale (Brassica oleracea)

Kale is a classic fall garden crop.

Kale is exceptionally cold tolerant, maintaining its dark green color and rich nourishment long into the fall and winter months when most other crops have withered away.

Top down view of curly kale being grown in the cool weather of autumn.

It can survive well into the winter with proper protection and it actually gets sweeter after a couple of frosts, as cold converts its starches into sugars in the stems and leaves.

For a fall crop, direct sow in full sun to partial shade about six to eight weeks before the first expected frost.

Burpee has a good selection of different cultivars.

Learn more about growing kale or check out some more recommended varities here.

2. Collard Greens (Brassica oleracea, var acephala)

A close relative of kale, this southern favorite can be planted in most of the contiental US and other similar climates.

Oblique view of collard greens growing in a fall garden.

Collards are similar to kale in their resistance to cold temperatures, rich nutrient content, and frost triggered sweetness.

Collards are one of my all-time favorite vegetables, I love to cook up a quick collard stir fry with butter, lemon, and a dash of salt and serve as a side with just about any meal. They are also a wonderful addition to hearty soups and stews.

Direct sow in full sun to partial shade about six to eight weeks before the first expected frost. Collards can be planted in just about any USDA zone, and can overwinter from zone 6 and up.

Try Vates collards available at True Leaf Market. This is a great cold tolerant variety for your fall garden.

3. Arugula (Eruca vesicaria ssp. sativa)

Who doesn’t love the spicy sharp kick of a fresh arugula salad? Arugula does very well in cool temperatures and is a quick and easy addition to any fall garden.

Close up of hearty arugula growing in an autumn garden.

One of the best parts of my autumn morning routine is taking a quick stroll through the garden to pick some fresh arugula leaves for my breakfast sandwich, stopping for just a moment to appreciate the vibrant fall colors all around me.

To maintain a continuous harvest of arugula throughout the fall, broadcast seeds in late summer and continue every couple of weeks. Harvest until plants begin to flower or die back.

Eden Brothers has a few tasty varieties to choose from.

Learn more about growing arugula here.

4. Peas (Pisum sativum)

Until recently, I never thought about peas as a fall garden crop. However, this classic spring staple enjoys the cool temperatures of autumn as well and peas grown in fall tend to taste sweeter than spring peas.

Close up of a ripe pea pod grown in a fall garden.

Peas will not survive a hard frost, so you should choose a variety with a shorter maturity time, such as these Thomas Laxton seeds from True Leaf Market.

These seeds mature in about 60 days, so they should be direct sowed in your garden about 10 weeks before your average expected frost date.

In northern climates, this means you will likely be planting your seeds in midsummer, and since peas do not enjoy summer heat, you can help keep them cool and moist by watering well and covering them with a thick layer of mulch.

It may take a bit of forethought to grow peas in the fall, but trust me, when you can walk into the garden in September and taste the satisfying snap of a crunchy pea, it will be well worth the effort!

Burpee has a wide assortment to choose from.

Learn more about growing peas here.

5. Beets (Beta vulgaris)

Red, juicy, and delicious, there is nothing quite like a beet to give a meal a little flare.

Oblique view of a row of beets growing in a cool-weather garden.

Beets are a great choice for a fall garden, tending to have even more vibrant colors in autumn than when planted in spring and a delightfully sweeter flavor as well.

Beets can be planted directly in the garden eight to 10 weeks before your first expected frost for a fall harvest. Plants are frost tolerant and can remain in the garden even after a fall freeze.They can often survive temperatures into the mid-20s Fahrenheit.

No need to wait long to begin seeing the fruits of your labor. You can harvest young leaves within three weeks of sowing, and roots in as early as five.

A wide variety of seeds are available from Eden Brothers or read more about growing them with our detailed guide.

6. Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes) 

Distinctive, simple to grow, and quick to mature, Kohlrabi is another great choice for a fall garden.

Close up of a green kohlrabi growing in a garden.

Members of the Brassica family and close relatives of cabbage, they are crisp, sweet, and a bit tangy. Both bulbs and leaves can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of ways.

I especially love to slice and eat the bulbs raw with hummus or veggie dip.

Plants are very frost tolerant, and like many fall crops, taste sweeter after a light frost or two. Direct sow six to eight weeks before your first expected frost.

Eden Brothers has a couple of great heirloom varieties available for purchase.

Get detailed growing instructions here.

7. Bunching Onions (Allium fistulosum)

I love growing bunching onions in my fall garden because they require very little effort and don’t take up much space.

Green bunching onions in an autumn garden.

Even better, bunching onions are perennial and if protected appropriately from winter they can continue growing and spreading year after year. Once established, they can be easily divided to make more plants.

Direct seed eight to 10 weeks before the first expected frost for a fall harvest. Plants will become dormant over the winter and begin to multiply in spring, forming perennial evergreen clumps.

Eden Brothers sells a hardy variety that overwinters well.

8. Rutabaga (Brassica napobrassica)

As a close relation to turnips, rutabagas have similar growth characteristics but with larger roots and a sweeter flavor. I don’t know why they aren’t as popular as other root vegetables, but flavor wise, they are much better than most in my opinion.

Top down view of harvested rutabaga roots on a rustic wooden surface.

These brassica root-crops are a cross between a turnip and a cabbage with golden flesh and purple and yellow skin. They can be eaten raw, roasted, boiled, mashed, and even fried.

Planting time varies by USDA zone and should be timed for a harvest in the late fall or even in the winter for southern climates.

Roots take around 90 days to mature and are more tender and sweeter after the first or second frost. Leaves can be harvested earlier, just after the plant is established, and can be added to salads, steamed, or boiled.

Order seeds for this purple topped variety from Burpee or learn more about growing rutabagas here.

9. Cauliflower

Cauliflower is known as being a temperamenta crop but if you pay proper attention to its growing requirements, it’s definitely doable for the average gardener.

Close up of a white head of cauliflower growing in an autumn, cool-weather garden.

This cole crop can be grown throughout USDA Zones 2 to 11 but timing varies by climate as it needs plenty of cool temperatures to produce a good head.

Different cultivars range from 50 to 100 days-to-maturity, and besides the ubiquitous white heads offered commercially, purple and orange varieties also available and are often packed with more vitamins and nutrients than the tradition type found in grocery stores.

In northern zones, you can plant in the late summer for a fall crop or, if you are in a southern climate, you can start your plants in peat pots indoors in a conditioned growing area (70°F / 21°C).

Burpee is a good source of cauliflower seeds. You can also read more about growing cauliflower here.

10. Carrots (Daucus carota var. sativus)

Carrots make me think of hearty autumn stews and roasted root veggie medleys. If I plan ahead, I like to get in a second round of carrots in the ground for a fall harvest.

Close up of carrots in a garden ready to be harvested.

Plant carrots for a fall harvest during the late summer heat. They will shoot up fast and grow sweet, thick, and tall throughout the fall. They can even survive a few light frosts, and roots are generally still edible even after the greens have died back.

Direct sow about 8 to 12 weeks before the first expected frost, and thin to 3 inches apart when the tops are a few inches tall.

In warmer zones with mild winters, carrots can be overwintered under a thick 8 inch layer of mulch and continually harvested into the spring.

As the name indicates, this Tendersweet variety from Eden Brothers is one of the sweetest varieties around and is quick to mature, making it a great choice for your fall garden.

11. Bok Choy (brassica rapa var. chinensis)

Also known as Pak Choi, this delectable Chinese cabbage is crisp, smooth, and tender, with a slightly peppery flavor. It is a classic in stir fries and makes a wonderful addition to fall soups and stews.

Bok choy growing in a veggie patch.

Bok Choy is a biennial that can live through the winter in zones 8 and above, though it will be quick to bolt once spring arrives.

Direct sow in full sun or partial shade beginning in mid to late summer and up until six to eight weeks before the first expected frost.

Seeds are available from True Leaf Market.

12. Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica)

Broccoli, a favorite in my household, is all that much more delightful when grown as a fall crop.

Top down view of a green head of broccoli growing in a fall vegetable garden.

Broccoli thrives in cooler weather and will tolerate hard frosts. Without the stress of summer heat, the plant pours energy into producing larger heads without bolting. Fall broccoli is also quite delicious. Heads are extra sweet and tender, and a few light frosts enhance the flavor.

Start seedlings in flats and transplant 10 weeks before the first expected frost date. You might consider a floating row cover in late summer to protect the seedlings from pests until the weather cools.

This heirloom variety from True Leaf Market matures in 48 days and produces a heavy yield.

Read more about growing them here or see more of our recommended selections.

13. Spinach (Spinacia oleracea)

Spinach is another fall garden classic. It grows quickly in cooler weather, producing abundant leaves, and it can survive frosts and freezes, making it an obvious addition to any fall garden.

A young spinach plant growing in an autumn garden. Close up.

Direct sow in full sun 8 weeks before the first expected frost date. You can begin harvesting the outer leaves as soon as they are several inches long and continue to harvest until plants start to flower or are killed by a hard frost.

I am a big fan of the large leaves and outstanding flavor or the Noble Giant variety, which can be found at Eden Brothers.

Read our spinach growing guide now.

14. Cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata)

This list wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to cabbage!

Olblique view of a cabbage growing in an autumn veggie patch.

Cabbages, like many of the Brassicas mentioned above, are cold tolerant crops that reach their peak flavor in the fall after exposure to light frosts.

I particularly love growing fall cabbages because I am a huge fan of sauerkraut. Every year, I set aside much of my fall cabbage harvest to ferment a big batch of sauerkraut that will last me well into the winter months.

Start seeds in summer about 12 to 14 weeks before the first expected frost, and transplant into a sunny spot in the garden when seedlings are about four to six weeks old, leaving 12 to 18-inches of space between plants. Consider using temporary shade covers after transplanting into hot summer soils to keep plants from getting too hot.

Eden Brothers has a wide selection of green and red cabbage seeds available for purchase.

Learn more about growing cabbage here.

15. Mustard Greens (Brassica juncea)

Spice up your fall garden with a patch of mustard greens!

Close up of live mustard plants.

With similar nutritional value to its more famous relatives like kale and collards, and a bit of a spicy kick, this crop will keep the kitchen full of flavor all autumn long.

Direct sow in the garden starting in mid-summer. You can continue to seed every few weeks for a successive harvest. Thin seedlings to 3-inches apart.

This heirloom variety from Eden Brothers is delicious in salads, soups, or stir fries.

16. Brussels Sprouts (Brassica oleracea ‘gemmifera’)

Brussels sprouts, like their close cousins cauliflower and broccoli, also have the reputation of being a bit picky in their growing habitats.

Close up of a stalk of Brussels sprouts growing in an autumn veggie patch.

There is truth in this belief, but they aren’t impossible to grow in a home veggie plot.

They just require the right temperatures for the best results. Brussels perform best at temperatures between 45°F (7°C) and 75°F (24°C). They will also tolerate a few days below freezing and are lovers of a good frost which enhances their flavor.

In the northern parts of the US, gardeners can plant a standard variety (105 days to maturity) in mid-to-late June and have crop ready to go by Thanksgiving in November.

Canadians wanting to hit their Thanksgiving in October can look at 85-day-to-maturity fast growing varieties. These are also excellent choices for those in the southern US that need to wait until late August or early September before planting.

These quicker growing cultivars also tend to be even more cold-hardy and can survive more days of freezing tempatures.

You may to need explore different varieties (such as these from Burpee) to find the best cultivar that fits in with your specific climate (or long-range weather outlook each year) for the best harvest.

Learn more about growing Brussels sprouts here.

17. Winter Radishes (Raphanus sativus)

While traditional radishes are a quick growing crop that can be planted just four to six weeks before the first fall frost, winter radishes are slower growing, can grow to be several pounds in size, and will last in the garden well after first frost.

Black colored, freshly pulled winter radishes laying on garden soil.

Plant winter radishes in early or mid-summer and watch them increase in size and flavor as the weather starts to cool. Add a layer of mulch to keep plants cool and to prevent weeds.

Radishes are great additions to salads, stir fries, and ferments. I like to combine mine with cabbage for an added kick to my kraut!

The Black Spanish Round available from True Leaf Market is a large spicy winter radish that keeps well in the ground after it matures.

Read our growing guide for more information.

18. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

Parsley happens to be one of my favorite culinary herbs. Lucky for me, it is also one of the hardiest, with the ability to survive to about 10°F.

Close up of green, fresh curly parsley.

Though not the easiest to germinate and a bit slower to mature, if you plant parsley early enough it will be available for picking well into the fall season. Plan to plant parsley at least 10 weeks before the first expected frost.

Parsley is best started indoors. It is often recommended to soak the seeds overnight before planting to help speed up germination. Transplant into your garden once plants have a few true leaves.

Harvest continually throughout the fall and enjoy brightening your autumn soups and stews with a fresh green garnish of parsley leaves.

Seeds are available from True Leaf Market.

Find detailed growing instructions for this herb here.

19. Turnips (Brassica rapa)

We’ve saved the ultimate cold-weather veggie for the last on our list. The humble turnip. These root-crops have fed royalty and peasants alike throughout the winter for hundreds of years. (Yes, insert “Winter is Coming” quote here).

Cold weather turnip. Close up with purple top and white bottom growing in a garden.

They are a multipurpose crop and like beets and rutabaga, can be grown for a their delicious, mustard-like greens as well as for their hearty bulbs.

Turnips are lovers of cool weather and prefer temperatures around 60°F (16°C)

And turnips are quick growers with about 60 days between planting and maturity which means you can often get multiple harvests in both fall and spring.

Although most people are familiar with the purple or purple and white type varieties sold in supermarkets, they are available in a plethora of cultivars from small radish-sized types all the way up to jumbos.

And with a good layer of mulch piled on top, these tasty cole crops can be left in the ground and harvested through the winter. Burpee has a nice selection of turnip seeds.

Read more about growing your own turnips here.

Don’t let the end of summer get you down

Fall is the time for gardens to shine, producing crops with exquisite flavor, large yields, and rich colors. But don’t take my word for it, keep your garden going through the autumn months with some of these cold loving crops and see the benefits for yourself!

What other crops do you like to grow in your fall garden? Share your favorites in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this list, check out these other fall gardening roundups:

© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

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About Heather Buckner

Heather Buckner hails from amongst the glistening lakes of Minnesota, and now lives with her family on a beautiful homestead in the Vermont Mountains. She holds a bachelor of science degree in environmental science from Tufts University, and has traveled and worked in many roles in conservation and environmental advocacy, including creating and managing programs based around resource conservation, organic gardening, food security, and building leadership skills. Heather is a certified permaculture designer and student herbalist. She is also a fanatical gardener, and enjoys spending as much time covered in dirt as possible!

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