Temperatures may be dropping but there's still plenty to enjoy in a fall vegetable garden. A few dollars and some extra time is all you need to plant a variety of edibles. Whereas fruit plants require particular care and take quite a while to mature (years, in the case of bushes and trees), some vegetables are best grown during the fall because of their affinity for cool weather and quick turnaround time.
All of the fall favorites are cheap to purchase and easy to grow. The maximum harvest time for fall vegetables is up to three months, but some seeds, such as radish, are ready in no time (that would be about 30 days). Plant, bulb, and seed packets cost as little as $1 and yield copious crops. Herbs are also popular and tasty additions to a fall garden; garlic and basil, for example, thrive during cooler months.
Remember, though, that the ultimate success of a fall garden depends in large part on the local climate. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has created a convenient Plant Hardiness Zone Map that can help gardeners determine what grows best where. A Way to Garden provides state-by-state information on last planting dates for fall garden vegetables. In some regions it may be too late to get started, so consider setting in some pots indoors late next spring and transplanting when the moment is right.
In the space of about four weeks you can grow crunchy and spicy radish. Radish doesn't like the heat, so very late summer is the best time to start planting for an early fall harvest. About $1 will get you a packet that contains 200 to 300 seeds. Plant a lot to increase the chance you'll end up with a good yield. Radishes are typically cut into a salad but also add bite to a sandwich.
Despite its name, summer squash can be planted from early summer until the first frost, so this is another excellent vegetable to add to your fall garden. On average squash takes about two months to mature. If planted now it will be ready just time for the soup you'll be preparing to keep warm during the winter months. Squash seed packets start at around $2 and include 25 to 50 seeds.
Cabbage needs a long growing season, up to three months, before it's harvest-ready. A very late summer planting allows just enough time before the first snows start falling in some parts of the country. DIY Network
recommends planting in cool weather, which also includes spring. Cabbage is easy to transplant while growing, so start a few cabbage plants indoors in pots during the summer and transport them to the outdoors garden in fall. Slice thinly and saute over low heat until caramelized for a side dish or try pickling some for a winter pucker. Packets of cabbage seeds cost approximately $1.
One of fall's most famous vegetables, pumpkin is a perennial dessert favorite. Pumpkins require 75 to 100 days to mature, and The Old Farmers Almanac
suggests beginning the seedlings in a pot inside during spring if it's still cold outside. Pumpkin seeds (which are also edible) are slightly more expensive than other varieties; one packet can cost close to $5 and hold fewer seeds than other vegetable varieties. Water and fertilize pumpkins regularly, and in no time you'll have the home-grown ingredients to whip up a delicious pumpkin pie.
Garlic is a favorite herb among gardeners because of its low maintenance and quick spurt to maturity. The going price for a head of garlic (the cloves are the "seeds") is less than $1, and once planted requires little more than watering. Fall weather is perfect for garlic, which prefers cool, dry conditions. In six to eight weeks the cloves will be fully developed and full of flavor. Mince a few and add to mashed potatoes, roast to top off pasta; or blend with fresh herbs and goat cheese for a savory garlic spread.