As our summer gardens are coming to a close, have you thought about planting a fall vegetable garden? I am going to talk about the 14 crops you can still plant in September for zone 5. I live in Sterling Michigan, zone 5a. I have never done a fall garden before and thought I would try it this year.
I have found crops that are frost resistant, cold tolerant and some even snow hardy.
Michigan approximate First Frost Dates, according to the Farmers Almanac for 2021. This includes the upper peninsula and lower peninsula.
- Roscommon, MI – September 14th
- Iron Mountain, MI – September 21st
- Sterling, MI – September 25th – this is mine!
- Cheboygan, MI – October 1st
- Saginaw, MI – October 6th – this used to be mine
- Grand Rapids, MI – October 10th
- Ann Arbor, MI – October 11th
- Marquette, MI – October 14th
- Detroit, MI – October 23rd
Even though my estimated frost date is September 25th this year, we have had some warm fall seasons. I may need to use a frost blanket but I should be able to have a fall garden. My brussels sprouts and red cabbage will definitely be going into the fall season, they seem to be developing a little slower this year. The brussels sprouts are recommended to harvest after a frost and the cabbage is frost tolerant too.
When growing beans, one thing to consider is the soil temperature. Planting in a fall garden is a good time to plant. The temperatures are already warm, so the plants will grow quickly. Beans are quick to germinate, which makes it a good candidate for a fall garden. Maturity is 50 to 65 days. This includes bush and pole beans, yellow and green beans. Beans are quick and easy to grow.
Peas love the cold weather. You can plant either shelling or sugar snap peas. Maturity is 50 to 60 day. Peas are an early spring crop or late summer/early fall crop. They don’t like the hot temperatures.
When growing carrots, they actually get sweeter in the cold temperature. Carrots can take temps down to -15 degree. Plant carrots in the late fall and they will continue to produce in the winter. Even though maturity for carrots is 70 to 80 days, you can actually harvest carrots in the snow. You can’t start them in the snow but if they are already growing, harvesting carrots in the winter is great.
Radishes can stand the cold and they mature within 22 days, which is a good crop to plant in September for zone 5 or even zone 4 could still plant radishes. Of course, zones higher than 5 definitely can plant radishes probably a couple times in the fall. Radishes are fast and easy to grow. Radishes thrive in the cooler weather when frost can be a threat to other crops. They can survive hard freezes as well.
This frost hardy crop is a rock star in the garden. Kale is another crop that is good to plant in the fall, you can harvest baby greens within 25 days and still have some time to let some greens go to maturity. Kale can be started indoors for preparation for fall planting. Snow can protect plants from extreme cold so that they stay in the garden longer. Kale is one of these plants! Very cold-hardy.
Turnips (Market Express)
These turnips are not your grandma’s turnips. These turnips mature within 30 to 40 days and frost tolerant. These turnips have a sweet mild-radish flavor and suited for eating fresh at baby size like an apple. This turnip is pure white. Turnips lose much of their spiciness and accumulate sugar when they mature in cold weather.
Growing Cilantro is one of those crops that will bolt in hot weather. Cilantro does better when it’s a little cooler or afternoon shade when it’s hot. Cilantro mature in 65 to 70 days but the young sprouts can be eaten anytime. You can also dig up the roots and transplant in a container for indoor use too.
Bunching Onions are as hardy as they come. Frosts, freezing temperatures and snow will not kill them. Bunching onions mature within 60 days. These onions don’t take as long to grow, which make them qualify for the fall garden. These onions can also be harvested in the snow.
Garlic can be planted in Michigan, in September to mid-late October, depending on where you live. This is an excellent fall crop to plant. Garlic can be planted in the ground until the ground freezes. Plant garlic 30 to 40 days before the first frost date.
Mustard greens is another easy to grow vegetable. It is also cold tolerant and matures in 40 days but can eat the baby greens. There are many varieties of mustard greens. I grew the southern giant curled mustard. This gets spicier in warm temperatures.
When spent days under the cover of snow they have been known to emerge in perfect condition once the snow melts.
Arugula thrives in cooler temperatures, where it will bolt in the hot temperatures. Arugula can be harvested as baby greens or wait until maturity in about 43 days. Also a good container plant and bring indoors in the winter for arugula all year long.
Growing spinach is another fall recommended crop, especially if you live in the warmer climates. Spinach matures in 48 days and is another cool weather plant.
Mesclun (Baby Greens)
The mesclun baby gourmet greens can be enjoyed without the gourmet price. This is frost tolerant, cold loving plant that matures in 21 to 45 days. This is a mix of lettuces with beautiful colors and rich flavors.
Mache – Corn Salad
This I have not grown before. This is a mild flavor, soft texture salad green, frost tolerant and matures in 60 days. This plant is also cold tolerant and can survive freezing temperatures to 10 degrees.
Crops that can be Harvested in Snow
Snow on the winter vegetable garden does not mean the end of your garden. Snow will actually insulate your winter crops from freezing temperatures and protect them until harvest. A killing frost or freeze will do more damage to winter vegetables than snow.
Brussels sprouts, Carrots, Cabbage, Chard, Turnips, and Head lettuce can be harvested from under a blanket of snow. Scallions and fall leeks to the size of scallions can be harvested from under snow. Onions can remain in the garden under snow if a protective layer of mulch lies in between. Parsnips and Brussels sprouts will taste sweeter after being covered by snow.
Crops that can survive under snow—but not sustained freezing temperatures or ice–include asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cress, spinach, endive, horseradish, kohlrabi, kale, leek lettuce, onions, parsley, parsnips, rutabaga, rhubarb, radishes, and turnips.
I know I focused mostly here in Michigan since that is where I live but some of these crops can be planted in higher zones without a problem. Grow zones 1 thru 4 would definitely have a much smaller window and probably do more greenhouse gardening. Make sure you know your grow zone and estimated first fall frost date and plan accordingly.
I will be planting my fall garden within the next couple of days. Wednesday will be September 1st and hoping to plant just a few of these crops in a raised bed. I will be making my plan. I do know I will be growing bush beans, green and yellow since the rabbits got my beans in my garden. I am doing a raised bed fall garden this year and also continue with my red cabbage and Brussels sprouts until a good frost or snow, whichever comes first.
Are you planting a fall garden this year? If so, what zone are you in? Please leave me a comment below, I would love to hear from you.
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