If there’s one thing we have gained from the pandemic, it seems to be an appreciation for growing our own food. Seed sales across the nation rose to unprecedented levels this spring and many suppliers ran out of seeds, leaving some gardeners out of luck.
But if you missed out on the warm-season veggies—or if you were one of the lucky ones and your green thumb is itchy from the success of your summer garden—you are in luck. Some of the healthiest and easiest vegetables love to grow in the cooler months of autumn and even winter. And for much of the country now is the perfect time to plant them.
Here are five incredibly healthy and easy to grow vegetables that you can plant in August and enjoy through the fall, and maybe even winter. The trick for fall planting some cool-season crops is starting seeds indoors.
If you’ve never started seeds inside before here is a great tutorial to get you going:
Now for my top-5 fall-planted vegetables:
Beets are incredibly healthy, packed with fiber, folate (vitamin B9), manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamin C. It is also thought that beets improve blood flow to the frontal lobe of the brain, an area associated with higher-level thinking, decision making, and working memory. Beets are also easy to grow in the fall. And, frost works magic on beets, transforming them into sweet delicacies that you can slice raw onto salad, or steam, or roast.
The trick to planting beets in your fall garden is finding a spot that receives some shade during the hottest part of the day and keeping them consistently moist. If you have a taller crop like beans in the garden, you can plant some beets between the rows allowing the beans to shade them while they germinate, then as you take out that crop at summer’s end, the beets will get plenty of autumn sun.
Another trick is to plant the beet seeds, water them well, and then cover them with a board. Check them every couple of days and remove the board as you see the seeds germinate. Leave the beets to grow, being sure to water well if it’s not raining, and harvest once frost hits. They will be the sweetest, best-tasting beets you’ve ever eaten.
Carrots are a little tricky to germinate in August, and if temperatures are still in the high 90s where you live, you may need to wait until late August or even the beginning of September. Otherwise, look for a shady microclimate or try the same tricks that you used for beets.
Carrots are especially picky about water–don’t ever let them dry out! They will grow all fall and then when frost hits, will turn incredibly sweet. You can leave carrots in the ground and harvest as needed throughout the fall, just make sure to pull them up before the ground freezes solid. Incidentally, homegrown carrots are an especially great way to get picky children to love vegetables.
Tatsoi isn’t well known in the United States, but hopefully, it will be soon. Tatsoi is nutrient-rich containing Vitamins A & C, beta- carotene, calcium, folate, and many phytonutrients. Phytonutrients can actually act as antioxidants (think of vitamin c), to help to prevent chronic diseases like cancer.
Tatsoi has a complex flavor, similar to spinach but with a little more spicy-sweet earthiness. You can use it raw for salads or smoothies, or toss it into a stir-fry for a healthy burst of flavor.
You may not find seeds at your local garden store, but several online suppliers carry it including this one. And this one. You can follow the same advice as above to start Tatsoi outside, or just start it indoors and plant out once several sets of true leaves have emerged.
Kale is hard to beat for health. Few veggies pack more nutrition than kale. In fact, kale is considered one of the most nutrient-dense plants on the entire planet. In addition to a hefty supply of vitamins, kale is also full of antioxidants and can help strengthen your immune system.
Antioxidants help reduce inflammation and may have heart-protective, blood pressure-lowering, anti-viral, antidepressant, and anti-cancer effects as well.
Kale should be started indoors for fall gardens as it doesn’t like to germinate in the heat. But once it is established you can put it in the garden and it is so cold-hardy that you will likely have Kale for much of the winter. I’ve dug it out of the snow before and it was happy as can be.
Packed with vitamins A, C and K, magnesium, iron, and Calcium spinach contains Lutine which can help with eye health, in part by protecting them from the harmful effects of blue light! Spinach is incredibly cold-hardy and will go through the frosts of autumn with no problem.
Spinach really hates to germinate when it’s hot, so start seeds indoors now and plant them out at the end of August, or as soon as your daytime temperatures cool down a little, and you’ll be enjoying spinach for salads and smoothies for several more months.
Red cabbage is a healthy and beautiful addition to your fall garden. Compared to green cabbage, red cabbage contains 10x more vitamins and cancer-fighting flavonoids, thanks to its dark red-purple coloring. It also boasts a healthy dose of antioxidants that improve eye, teeth, bone, & immune health. Like spinach and tatsoi, start cabbage indoors in August and plant it out in 3-4 weeks when the weather cools just a bit.
Although spring gardens tend to get all the glory, some of the healthiest and easiest veggies enjoy the cool days of autumn. A little care and work now will ensure that you have plenty of health-boosting veggies to carry you into the cold days of winter.
Which fall vegetable is your favorite? Comment below and let me know: Are you gonna plant some spinach, beets, and carrots or perhaps venture into the wild side and try out Tatsoi?