For those of us who love to step outside every day and harvest something yummy from our kitchen garden, the end of October is not the time to put your garden in hibernation mode for the winter. There are still so many amazing things we can grow, depending on what growing season we're in.
While I’d love to give you a hard and fast rule for what you can still plant in your raised bed kitchen garden in the middle of fall, it will vary depending on where you live. There are, however, two factors to consider before you plant anything to steer your decisions no matter where you garden.
factor #1 to consider before planting in the fall:
Around how many days do you have left before the season shifts?
Consider your climate, check your local forecasted temperatures, and determine how long you have before the current season changes. Here in the Chicago area, we're in the Cool Season, but our Cold Season is just around the corner. Here's a breakdown of the different growing seasons:
Cold Season - Average high temperature below 30°F (-1°C); guaranteed chance of frost
Cool Season - Average high temperature between 31°F and 64°F; likely chance of frost
Warm Season - Average high temperature between 65°F and 85°F (18.3°C and 29.4°C); no chance of frost
Hot Season - Average high temperature of 85°F (29.4°C) or above; no chance of anything close to cold
Using your local forecasts, do some math and figure out about how many days you have left in the current season.
factor #2 to consider before planting in the fall:
Which plants only need that amount of time to grow and produce?
Choose plants that will grow and produce within the time you have left in your current growing season, or if you're nearing the end of your season, begin planting in anticipation of your upcoming growing season.
My favorite Cool Season plants come from the lettuce family, and fortunately, I've still got time to grow more lettuce leaves before we transition fully into Cold Season. (Check out my list of the top ten salad greens to grow in the garden during Cool Season for all the leafy green possibilities.) I could also plant members of the onion family that will overwinter in my garden. To prepare for the upcoming Cold Season, I could plant members of the carrot family, spinach family, and kale family, all of which can thrive in my winter garden with proper measures, such as frost cloth and cold frames.
Explore the best herbs to grow in the fall; you can pot your favorite herbs up and bring them inside for the winter if you live in a colder climate.
No matter what you plant, give your seeds a really good watering in and keep them moist in the first seven to ten days after sowing to prevent them from drying out.