Fall Gardening


Summer in the South is the traditional time to get out in the garden, but fall is the perfect season to grow. With just a little effort, you can eat delicious produce throughout the autumn and winter. Remember, gardening is about eating, not weeding, so think of your garden as a 365 day per year source of fresh, healthy food!

What should you plant and when?

Planting for fall starts in July and August and you can continue to plant through September and sometimes later in the mild Carolina weather.

Many veggies, like lettuce and spinach, can be planted in spring or fall and actually thrive and taste better when grown in cooler temperatures. Consider planting some crops from seed and some from plants. Also, stagger your planting times for a continual harvest. Refer to the fall crop planting guide for more information.

Seeds versus plants

Direct seeding for crops like broccoli, cabbage, and collards can produce great results. However, your success depends on having enough moisture available to keep the young seedlings actively growing after germination. If you don’t have an irrigation source, you might be better off using plant starts or starting your seeds inside.

Seeds should be planted deeper in the fall because the moisture level is lower in the soil and the surface temperature is higher.

Note: Herbs aren’t just for spring. Start cilantro, parsley, etc. from seed and enjoy all winter! For more info see our “Planting” guide.

First frost

Some plants are more frost-tolerant than others. In the counties surrounding Mecklenburg, our average date for the first killing frost is Oct. 24.

Cover growing beds or rows with burlap or a floating row cover supported by stakes or wire to keep the material from directly touching the plants. Individual plants can be protected by using milk jugs. Most semi-hardy and hardy vegetables will require little or no frost protection.

Semi-hardy vegetables should be harvested before a heavy freeze. Root crops like carrots and radishes should be harvested or mulched heavily before a hard freeze. During mild winters, harvest may continue through spring.

Get the kids involved!

Collect seeds and compost summer plants. Start seeds in paper cups indoors, watch them sprout and then transplant them to the garden. Pull up the root crops, like carrots, when they’re ready to cook and then prepare a simple, fresh meal. Collect leaves for compost when they start to fall. Plant garlic cloves around Halloween to ward off “vampires” and carve those pumpkins from your summer garden.

By Henry Owen with assistance from Kathy Metzo and Carol Adams