There are plenty of plants, bulbs, and seeds to add to the fall garden before the ground freezes. Options include some fast-growing cold tolerant food crops, cover crops to enrich the soil, and an assortment of spring flowers.
There is a complete printable fall garden task checklist here.
What to Plant in Fall
I love that in recent years we’ve really broken away from the old idea that the gardening season ends in late summer.
Not only can we continue planting a variety of plants so long as the ground is soft, but there’s lots of food crops that will survive throughout the winter months with just a few protective measures.
And, of course, it’s the best time of year to plant cold-loving bulbs for spring flowers.
This list has a variety of options to plant before the ground starts to freeze and you can’t get a shovel in the ground.
Timing depends on your location and how long you have before first frost (if you get frost!).
Bulbs To Plant In Fall
Now is the time! Garlic does best when planted in the fall, enjoying a good winter chill, before maturing for harvest the following summer.
You’ll want to get the garlic bulbs in the ground while the weather is cool (not warm or freezing). They’ll establish roots and be ready to multiply in the new year.
This has excellent tips for successfully growing garlic in a cold climate.
This one is just for those of you in warmer climates with fairly mild winters: plant onions now.
Find a local seller to learn which varieties do best in your area.
Fall-planted onions have a unique sweetness that makes this task totally worthwhile come spring.
3Spring and Summer-flowering Bulbs
Now is the time to plant cold-loving flowering bulbs both in the ground and containers.
Flowering bulb choices include tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, crocus, Dutch iris, scilla—unless invasive in your area, and more.
Find a favorite online bulbs seller like Eden Brothers and get your order in asap.
Because I have so many squirrels in my garden, my preference is to plant them in containers and keep them protected from tiny, furry hands.
In general, you want 16 to 18 weeks of cool temperatures before blooming time.
After a long winter, there is nothing quite as sweet as a container spilling over with gorgeous tulip flowers.
- 20 Flowering Bulbs to Plant in Fall | All the classics!
- 20 Spring Bulbs For Pollinators | Bulbs that specifically feed early spring pollinators
4Cut and Come Again Salads
This post tells you how: How To Grow Salad Greens That Regrow (“Cut & Come Again”)
Best sown in spring or fall (not hotter months), you can plant some radishes now if you’ve got a few weeks before first frost.
If the colder weather comes sooner than expected, just have frost covers ready to protect your darlings.
Radishes are a fun crop to grow with kids because they’re super fast from seed to table.
Also, you can grow radishes in jars the same way I grow “fairy” carrots.
There are all sorts of flower seeds that do nicely when sown in fall because they need the cold of winter to prepare for spring germination.
This lists 25 flower seeds to sow in fall.
If you’ve ever had delphinium seeds fail, this shows my tips for successful germination: how to germinate stubborn delphinium seeds.
7Green Manure / Cover Crops
What is green manure?
I know, it doesn’t sound so pleasant but there’s really nothing manure-ish about it.
Green manure is the nickname for crops used to enrich the soil.
Farmers grow green manure crops in the fall or winter for several reasons including:
- Cover crops protect top soil, anchoring it in place, preventing erosion from heavy winds.
- Later, the dead and decaying plants return nutrients to the soil.
You can do the same thing with your home garden beds.
- Sow the seeds in fall a few weeks before first frost.
- Some crops will die with winter cold; others will go dormant until spring.
- Before the plants produce seeds, dig them into the soil. You don’t want these plants leaving seeds in the soil.
Green manure crops:
- Alfalfa Medicago sativa | Perennial
- Buckwheat Fagopyrum esculentum | Hardy annual.
A top pick for cover crops: fast-growing, attracts pollinators and several beneficial predatory insects.[Buy it here at Seedsnow.com]
If your garden beds have provided a lot of produce, feed your depleted soil with a winter cover crop.
Handy Fall Checklist
Empress of Dirt
Fall Gardening Checklist
Save to your device and/or print it.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛