Category Archives: Garden Advice

Fall Planting: Vegetables, Perennials, Flowers, Grain

It’s still warm outside, but the gardening season is waning. While the big summer crops, peppers, tomatoes, beans, and squashes, will be finishing up soon, there is still time to do some fall planting. Some fall planted crops you can harvest throughout the late fall and early winter, and some won’t mature until next summer or even a few years. As we head into the colder months, we’re losing light each day, but it’s a beautiful time to work in the garden. 

Fall Planting Alliums

Perennial Onions & Shallots

You can use shallots or perennial onions as onion substitutes in recipes. For those unfamiliar, shallots have a delicate, mild flavor. However, Egyptian walking onions are typically grown for their green tops. Depending on your zone, you can plant these hardy, productive perennials from September through November. 

Bulb Onions

It can be surprisingly tough to get large bulb onions! We recommend getting as early a start as possible on your onions. The hot, long days of summer signal the bulbs to stop growing and start drying down. 

Sow bulb onions indoors or in the greenhouse from mid-September to mid-March. Then they can be transplanted out in February or as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. 


There are different types of garlic hard-neck, soft-neck, and elephant.

Hard-neck Garlic

Hard-neck garlic offers fewer larger cloves, making for easy peeling. They have excellent flavor but don’t store quite as long as soft neck varieties. However, hard-neck produce flower stalks, garlic scapes which are often considered a specialty. Some hard-neck varieties will tolerate the Southeast but thrive in areas with cold winters and long cool springs.

Soft-neck Garlic

Soft-neck garlic does better with southern winters. They typically produce more and smaller cloves than hards-neck garlic. They also have excellent flavor, keep well, and can be braided. 

Elephant Garlic

As the name suggests, elephant garlic produces large bulbs, sometimes as large as a grapefruit. They’re closely related to leeks, and their flavor is mild and sweet.fall planting cabbage

Fall Planting Brassicas

Brassicas are often the backbone of cool weather gardens. They include cabbages, collards, kale, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. It’s best to sow many of these in the middle of summer for fall planting, but you may still have time to get some in, depending on your zone. 


For fall crops, either transplant to desired spacing when plants have three true leaves or direct sow 6-12 seeds per foot at a depth of 1/4 inch and thin as needed. Maintain adequate soil moisture during germination.

  • January King Cabbage
  • Red Acre Cabbage
  • Savoy Perfection Cabbage


Tasty and high in vitamins A and C, collards have long been a must-have for southern gardens. Most varieties are winter-hardy from Virginia southward. Here are a few of the many great varieties:

  • Champion Collards
  • Variegated Collards
  • Vates Collards
  • Whaley’s Favorite Cabbage Collards


Kale is super easy to grow and frost hardy. It is often less susceptible to pests than other brassicas. 

  • Lacinato Rainbow Mix Kale 
  • Premier Kale
  • White Russian Kale


Kohlrabi is a brassica with a bulbous stem and leaves which can be eaten raw in salads or cooked.

  • Gigant Winter Kohlrabi
  • Early Purple Vienna Kohlrabi

Fall Planting Root Crops

Before the advent of modern refrigeration, root crops often made up a considerable portion of people’s winter diet. You can sow many root crops in the fall for a late fall or early winter harvest.


Carrots are an ideal fall crop for harvesting through the winter. Here in the Southeast, you can store them right in the garden by covering the tops with a thick layer of loose mulch, like straw. Some great varieties for fall include:

  • Danvers 126
  • Purple Dragon
  • Yellowstone


Plant beets in early September for winter harvests. Thin to six plants per foot for fresh beets, three plants per foot for beets used for winter storage, in rows 12 inch apart. Some great varieties for fall include:

  • Lutz Green Leaf (Winter Keeper) Beet
  • Chioggia (Dolce Di Chioggia) Beet
  • Bull’s Blood Beet (usually harvested young for salad mix)


These versatile veggies provide greens and sweet, mildly spicy roots in the winter. Among some families, it’s traditional to eat turnip greens on New Year for good luck. Some great varieties for fall include:

  • Amber Globe (Yellow Globe) Turnip
  • Seven Top (Southern Prize) Turnip Greens (used as a winter green)


Radishes are fast maturing and add a bit of spicy flavor to salads and roasted root veggies. For winter storage, radishes sow 5-10 weeks before the first fall frost. Thin to wider spacing (4-6 in. apart) than regular radishes. Harvest before temperatures drop below 20 degrees F. Trimmed roots can store for two to three months in the refrigerator or root cellar. 

  • Black Spanish Round Fall Radish
  • China Rose Fall Radish
  • Daikon, Miyashige White Fall Radish
  • Misato Rose Fall Radish


Rutabagas are a productive crop originating in Sweden from a cross between cabbages and turnips. Historically and today, rutabagas are used both as a table vegetable and as animal fodder. You can make a hearty dish from mashed potatoes and rutabagas. Rutabagas are also traditionally part of New England boiled dinners.

Plant 8-10 weeks before the first fall frost. Seed 1 inch apart in rows 12 to 16 inches apart, thinning to 8 inches apart. Thin within a month–crowded seedlings won’t bulb properly.

Fall Planting Peas

Shelling (English), snap, and snow peas are all fast-maturing, cool-weather crops that can all be fall planted. Here in zone 7a, they don’t tend to perform as well as our spring plantings. However, it may be worth trying it in your area. Some varieties to try:

  • Little Marvel Dwarf Shelling (English) Pea
  • Sugar Ann Dwarf Snap Pea
  • Oregon Giant Dwarf Snow Pea

fall planting lettuceFall Planting Greens

Several greens thrive in fall’s cool weather. You can sow lettuce, mustards, endive, cress, spinach, endive, and arugula this time of year. Here are a few of my favorites for fall:


  • Red Giant Mustard
  • Feaster Family Heirloom
  • Southern Giant Curled Mustard


  • Anuenue Batavian/ Crisphead Lettuce
  • Parris Island Cos Romaine Lettuce
  • Crawford Bibb (Butterhead) Lettuce
  • Rouge d’Hiver (Red Winter) Romaine Lettuce

Fall Planting Flowers

When we think of planting flowers, we typically think of spring. However, you can start a flower garden in the fall. 

Fall Bulbs & Crowns

Many flowers grown from bulbs do best when planted in the fall. These include tulips, crocus, daffodils, oriental lilies, and ornamental alliums. Some can be fall-planted from crowns such as peonies. 

Fall Flowers Seeds

Many of the flower seeds we carry can also be fall sown. It sounds a bit odd but think of all the flowers that will self-sow. We typically recommend sowing these flowers 4 to 6 weeks before your first frost. You can find out more about what varieties and planting recommendations in our post Spring Flowers: Fall Sowing.

fall planting ginsengWoodland Medicinals


Historically, herbalists used goldenseal to treat various ailments especially inflamed mucous membranes. It was used in gargles for sore throats, topically to treat skin irritations and infections, as an eyewash, and internally to treat UTIs, ulcers, and digestive issues.

Today, goldenseal is now believed to be one of the most at-risk medicinal plants in the United States and is believed to be at high risk of extinction in many parts of its range. Goldenseal rhizomes can be planted in the fall, helping to ensure this specie’s long-term survival. 


Like goldenseal, ginseng is disappearing from the woodlands of North America. Herbalists highly favor wild ginseng over cultivated ginseng. Interestingly, wild ginseng shows exponentially higher levels of the compound ginsenoside, which is believed to have numerous medicinal benefits.

It’s best to plant ginseng seeds or roots in the fall. It thrives on northern facing slopes of deciduous forests. Planting ginseng in your woodlands helps ensure its survival.

Fall Planting Grains

Growing your own grain is as rewarding as growing your vegetables and herbs. Whether you’re an avid baker or brewer or just want to try something new, small-scale grain production is a great option. For fall planting, try Nu East Hard Winter Wheat.

Fall Cover Crops

Sowing cover crops is an essential part of fall garden maintenance. Cover crops help provide habitat for beneficial insects, reduce erosion, and add organic matter to your soil. Please read our blog Fall Cover Crops & Their Importance for more info on fall cover crops. Some great options include:

  • Austrian Winter Peas
  • Hairy Vetch
  • Buckwheat
  • Crimson Clover
  • White Dutch Clover
  • Red Clover
  • Hulless Oats
  • Common Winter Rye

Fall Cover Crops & Their Importance

Fall Planting Fruit Trees & Shrubs

If you’re dreaming of a home orchard, now is a great time to start! Many fruit trees and shrubs can be planted in the fall. Cooler and shorter days may actually help trees become established in hot areas. You can plant apples, plums, peaches, and others in the autumn.

Fall is a wonderful time to work in the garden, enjoying the cooler weather and lower humidity. Depending on your location and garden, you may be able to add some crops or perennials to your plot this time of year. 

Great Varieties for Canning

Last week on the blog, we discussed ten tips for canning stress-free canning. Food preservation is an essential part of gardening, and canning is a popular way to put up extra food without needing to keep a large freezer running. When I’m not busy preserving food, I also like to take some time each fall to think about how different varieties performed and what I can do differently next year. This fall, I’m considering great varieties for canning.

While you can pressure can many vegetables, including green beans, peas, corn, squash, and potatoes. You can only water bath can certain vegetables and fruits that are highly acidic or are tasty when pickled or otherwise made highly acidic using vinegar. Water bath canning is easy and great for beginners because it requires little start-up cost. Below we’ll discuss some great varieties you can grow for water bath canning tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, cucumber pickles, salsa, and pickled peppers


Canned tomatoes or sauce is one of the most versatile products in the pantry. I make pizza, pasta dishes, soups, chili, burritos, and more using home canned tomatoes. While any variety can be preserved, certain varieties produce less juice and more flesh making them more suited to cooking.

Indeterminate vs. Determinate

Tomatoes are divided into two categories, determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes reach their mature size and yield a large quantity of tomatoes in a relatively short time. Determinate tomatoes can be convenient for preserving.

Indeterminate tomatoes are more vining and continue to grow upward and produce throughout the season. These can be a better option if you want tomatoes for fresh eating over a longer period, but you can also preserve them.

Here are five great options for canning tomatoes:

Amish Paste (Indeterminate)

You’ve probably run across Amish paste if you’ve looked into canning tomatoes. These tall plants produce heavy yields of large, coreless tomatoes with excellent flavor. Despite the name ‘Amish Paste,’ the juicy fruits are best suited to making sauce.

San Marzano (Indeterminate)

This Italian heirloom is famous for its use in Neapolitan pizza and other Italian dishes. San Marzano tomatoes are very productive, 6-foot-tall plants with good disease resistance. The long Roma-type tomatoes have thick, dry, low acid flesh and few seeds. They are ideal for canning in recipes with enough acidity. 

Heinz 1350 VF Processing Tomato (Determinate)

Developed in 1963 by the H. J. Heinz Company, Heinz 1350 is an excellent processing tomato for canning and cooking. It’s widely adapted, has a concentrated fruit set, and produces round 4-6 oz fruits with good crack resistance.

Yellow Bell Paste Tomato (Indeterminate)

Southern Exposure introduced this Tennessee family heirloom in 1986. These heavy-yielding plants produce 5-12 fruits per cluster. They survive better in cool, wet conditions than other sauce tomatoes and bear heavily until frost. Yellow bells are great for salads or making lovely tomato paste, juice, preserves, salsa, and yellow catsup!

Roma VF, Virginia Select Paste Tomato (Determinate)

Our neighboring farmer and Growing for Market writer Pam Dawling has been saving this locally adapted strain since 2001, selecting for high, early yields and tolerance to Septoria Leaf Spot. It was introduced in 2009 by Southern Exposure and produces 4-5 ounce fruits.


One of the first recipes I learned to can was basic dill pickles. Cucumber pickles are easy to make and a great way to enjoy your garden produce even in the winter.

Arkansas Little Leaf Pickling Cucumber

The University of Arkansas developed this popular, reliable variety in 1991. It produces compact vines with multiple branch points that will climb a fence or trellis easily and are resistant to multiple diseases. Arkansas Little Leaf has small leaves that make finding fruit easier and parthenocarpic flowers which produce fruit under stress and without pollinators. It produces 5-inch long fruits that are good for slicing and pickling. 

Boston Pickling Cucumber 

A classic old pickler, this variety dates back to 1880. While not as rampant as some, it’s still productive, and the blunt-shaped fruits are crisp and mild, ideally sized for pickling.

Roseland Small White Pickling CucumberRoseland Small White Pickling Cucumber

In the early ’70s, Gordon Shronce’s sister Evelyn Allran received seed from a neighbor in the Roseland community near Lincolnton, North Carolina. Southern Exposure introduced Roseland Small White Pickling Cucumbers in 2016. It produces loads of early, blocky white cukes that are excellent sliced or pickled. Gordon likes to pick them at 3 inches or less, but they’re still mild and tender to 7 inches long.

Homemade Pickles Pickling Cucumber

Homemade Pickles produces medium green fruits with small white spines that are solid and crisp. These vigorous plants were specifically developed for home gardeners and have good disease resistance, including Downy Mildew resistance. They make delicious, robust bite-sized pickles, slices, or large spears.

Mexican Sour Gherkin (Mouse Melon, Sandita) 

These tenacious vines bear many 5⁄8 in. x 7⁄8 in. fruits with skin like tiny watermelons. They bear until frost and can be pickled whole for a fund snack or conversation-starting garnish! Immature, they taste like cucumbers; when fully mature, they taste like pickled cucumbers.


When growing a lot of your food, peppers are essential. They preserve well and add great flavor to many dishes. I love pickling peppers and adding them to salsa. My father-in-law also taught me to add hot pepper to some of my jars of pickles and spaghetti sauce.

Hungarian Hot Wax Banana Pepper

This very productive variety produces banana-shaped peppers with medium heat. They adapt well to the deep south and cool north and can be used fresh, canned, or pickled. 

Red Cherry (Cherry Sweet) Sweet Pepper

This pre-1860 variety is excellent for pickling, canning, stuffing, or snacking! The little bonbon-shaped fruits are thick-walled, sweet, and flavorful. Red cherries bear heavily and are disease resistant. 

Serrano Tampiqueño Hot Pepper

If you like your food a bit spicy, Serrano Tampiqueño is a great multi-purpose pepper. Plants reach about 4 feet tall and produce pendant-shaped, thin-walled fruit. They’re very hot, whether picked green or red, and are excellent for drying, salsa, pickling, hot pepper vinegar, and flavoring spicy dishes like chili. 

Sweet Banana (Long Sweet Hungarian) Sweet Pepper

Sweet bananas are excellent for fresh eating, frying, freezing, and pickling. I love using pickled sweet banana peppers on salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and nachos. This variety produces heavy yields and is a great choice for the Mid-Atlantic region.

Jalapeño Hot Pepper

These classic salsa chiles had to make the list. These thick-walled peppers are great for pickling, adding excellent flavor to salsa, smoked, or making Jalapeño vinegar. Jalapeños filled with cream cheese and fried are a Southern specialty. They’re often harvested green but can be harvested red or left to mature to red off the plant.

As you’re planning next season’s garden, it’s a good idea to consider how and if you want to put up excess produce. Planting a few canning varieties is a great way to stock your pantry beyond the summer months.

Harvest Season Traditions & Lore

August is a great time to be a gardener. It’s often hot and full of work but worth it. The harvests are coming in. Many gardeners will be picking and preserving squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, potatoes, corn, and saving seeds this time of year. Today I thought I’d talk about some fun harvest season traditions and folklore.

If you’re growing a fall pea crop, watch for pods with nine peas.

The English believed that finding nine peas in a pod was good luck. Some traditions dictated that you must throw the ninth pea over your shoulder to receive the luck.

Other lore suggests that peas may be able to cure warts. In one tradition, if you found nine peas in a pod, the ninth could be touched to a wart and then tossed over the shoulder to cure the wart. Another bit of lore suggested that you could cure your warts by touching each one with a different pea on the first day of the new moon, wrapping them in cloth, and burying them separately. As the peas decomposed, the warts would disappear. 

Plant plenty of garlic to ward off evil, illness, and insects.

There has been plenty of garlic lore throughout the ages. This strong-smelling herb seems to bring out its own traditions in each culture it encounters. The ancient Greeks believed that Hecate, goddess of the underworld, favored offerings of garlic. Throughout European and Asian history, people hung it in doorways to ward off evil spirits. Its heavy use on the Russian front during World War II as an antibiotic and antiseptic earned it the nickname “Russian penicillin.” Today, many gardeners believe planting a few cloves around your fruit trees and roses will drive pests away.

That’s just a pinch of the garlic folklore you can find out there. Whatever you believe, we’re pretty sure it’s worth adding to your garden this fall.

Wassail or thank your fruit trees on the Twelfth Night.

This tradition was and is predominantly practiced in southern England. Groups, traditionally of young men, would go out to the cider orchard on the Twelfth Night (January seventeenth) night and Wassail the apple trees. This practice often included pouring some cider over the roots and leaving slices of bread on the roots or in the branches. People believed that wassailing would bless the apple trees to have a good crop in the coming season. 

Don’t pick blackberries in October.

Depending on where you’re located, blackberries generally ripen in July, August, or September. However, if you find blackberries later, tradition dictates you shouldn’t pick them. It was once believed that the devil pees on any remaining fruit after Michaelmas (the feast of St. Micheal) on September twenty-ninth.

harvest season traditions (wheat)Cut your first sheath of grain at dawn on August first.

We’re a little for this year, but some cultures celebrate a harvest day about halfway between the summer solstice and the fall equinox. 

One is Lammas or “loaf mass day,” a Christian holiday celebrated by some English-speaking countries in the Northern hemisphere. Another is Lughnasadh, celebrated around the same time in old Celtic and pagan traditions.

Sometimes as part of these celebrations, it was customary to cut the first sheath of wheat at dawn. Those celebrating Lammas would use this wheat to make a loaf of bread for the church. Sometimes people would make dollies from corn or wheat for Lughnasadh.

Save a turnip for Halloween.

Pumpkins weren’t the first carved vegetables of Halloween. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was common to carve faces into turnips and other root vegetables in Ireland and other Celtic nations to celebrate Samhain. Folks believed these terrifying creations lit with candles would protect them from harm and ward off evil spirits known to roam on Samhain.

Use up the end-of-season surplus by canning chow chow.

Chow chow is an essential southern food preservation recipe. It’s sort of a relish or condiment and sort of a side dish made from all the garden leftovers like green tomatoes, peppers, and cabbage mixed with spices and vinegar. Many families have their own chow chow recipes and insist that there’s a right way to do it. 

If you don’t already have a recipe, check out this one from Kevin West, the author of Saving the Season.

Find the red ear at a husking bee.

For those unfamiliar, husking bees were common social events until the 20th century. These festivities often included food, music, stories, and gossip. They were an opportunity for rural families to come together over shared hard work.

These festivities were just one of the traditions passed from Native Americans to settlers. One common aspect that was included from Native American tradition was the significance of finding a red ear of corn. Often whoever found the red ear could kiss whoever they wanted or was rewarded with a cup of cider or whisky. 

While many of these traditions and other bits of gardening lore have fallen out of use, they can still be fun to remember or even try. What garden or harvest traditions does your family practice?