Vegetables to plant in autumn: the best autumn & winter crops

Frederike
Frederike
Frederike
Frederike

I am a student of agricultural sciences and a real country kid. At home, I love tending my small vegetable garden and spending time out in nature. When not outdoors, I love to write. Beyond gardening and writing, however, I am particularly passionate about wildlife.

Favourite fruit: currants and raspberries
Favourite vegetables: salsify, savoy cabbage and potatoes

Autumn is here and with it come ten great autumn vegetables that grow and thrive wonderfully even in stormy weather and colder temperatures.

Carrots and beetroots in basket
Some vegetables also thrive as an aftercrop [Photo: istetiana/ Shutterstock.com]

As the summer harvest draws to an end, the planting beds slowly empty, and winter approaches. For many gardeners, the gardening season is coming to an end. But autumn is when things really get going. The time is ripe for countless vegetables to be sown and to make the most of the last warm days before winter. Here are our top ten vegetables to plant in autumn.

1. Lettuce

Although associated with spring and summer, lettuce is also well-suited for growing in autumn. If sown by the end of August, the plants will have no problem growing outside. Endive and frisée lettuces are particularly good for autumn cultivation, but classics, such as butterhead lettuce or lamb’s lettuce, also have their place in the autumn planting bed. In fact, autumn cultivation even has advantages − the lower temperatures minimise the risk of the lettuce starting to flower.

Growing lettuce in autumn outside
Endives are particularly good for growing in autumn [Photo: lantapix/ Shutterstock.com]

2. Pak choi

Pak choi (Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis) is not only healthy and delicious, but (like almost all cabbages) also perfect for growing in autumn. When growing pak choi outdoors, August or early September is best, preferably when the hottest days are already over. This vegetable does not tolerate heat well and can quickly begin to flower. Only 6 to 8 weeks after sowing, the pak choi is ready for harvest.

Harvesting pak choi in autumn
Pak choi does not tolerate too much heat [Photo: J. Lekavicius/ Shutterstock.com]

3. Cauliflower

In the same family as cabbage, and therefore well-suited to autumn cultivation, is cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis). Cauliflower is particularly susceptible to pests in summer, so growing cauliflower in autumn is actually more productive. Start the seeds indoors as early as August − it takes about 30 days to get the seedlings ready for planting. Then plant the seedlings in the bed in the first week of September. The cauliflower harvest can take place until October, about 8 to 12 weeks after sowing.

Heads of cauliflowers
Planting cauliflower in autumn is more rewarding [Photo: Lisa Mar/ Shutterstock.com]

4. Swede

Although not so popular nowadays, the Swedish turnip (Brassica napus subsp. rapifera) is a classic winter vegetable. After all, swedes are not only extremely hardy, but also tolerate frosts down to -6°C. Swedes need to be planted in the garden bed at least 8 weeks before the first frost, so sowing around midsummer until the end of July is best. Depending on when they were sown, swedes can be harvested from September onwards often until December − at the latest, they should be harvested before the first, longer frost period.

5. Chard

Chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris) is not only tasty, but also very hardy − it tolerates light and medium frosts without a problem. It is recommended to sow chard by the end of July at the latest, so the plant can develop sufficiently before the onset of winter. Chard grows particularly well as a successor crop to peas or beans, as these deposit valuable nitrogen in the soil. Chard can be harvested after 8 to 12 weeks. In mild regions, a thick mulch layer of leaves can protect the chard through the winter − so it can be harvested again in spring.

Chard growing in a row
Chard tolerates frosts rather well [Photo: Supakvadee T/ Shutterstock.com]

6. Carrots

Many people associate carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativus) with spring and summer. But truth be told, this orange root vegetable can be grown practically all year round − if you want your crunchy carrots in autumn and winter too, simply sow them again in August. Not only does autumn sowing provide a supply of fresh carrots all year round, but carrots harvested later in the year also taste sweeter than their springtime counterparts. This is because carrots begin to convert their starch into sugar at cold temperatures.

Freshly harvested carrots in autumn
Carrots harvested late actually taste sweeter than those harvested in the summer [Photo: LedyX/ Shutterstock.com]

7. Beetroot

Whether red, white or yellow, beetroot (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris) is a classic vegetable from grandma’s kitchen. The latest time to sow beetroot is early August since they need some time to develop their tasty tubers while the temperatures are still mild. The beetroots are ripe just before the first frost as soon as their leaves become spotty and can be dug up. What is particularly advantageous about beetroot is that it stores well over the winter. Just remove their leaves and pack them in boxes in a cool, dark place. The beetroot harvest will easily keep until next spring.

Beetroot harvest in wooden crate
Beetroot can easily be stored over the winter [Photo: Ulada/ Shutterstock.com]

8. Radishes

Radishes (Raphanus sativus subsp. sativus) are also late bloomers − it is possible to sow radishes outdoors until September without any problems. However, there are some differences to growing radishes in autumn versus spring and summer. Be sure to choose a fast-growing radish variety so that the vegetables are also ready for harvesting in autumn − with fast-growing varieties, you can pick the radishes after only 4 weeks. Also, instead of a semi-shady place, like in summer, radishes sown in autumn prefer a sunny location, so they get enough light and can thrive.

Radishes growing in autumn
When growing radishes in autumn, choose a fast-growing variety [Photo: nnattalli/ Shutterstock.com]

9. Kale

Kale (Brassica oleracea var. sabellica) is, and remains, the favourite winter vegetable. So, it is not surprising that the vitamin C bomb finds its way quite late into our garden beds. Sow kale in August at the latest. But growing kale is also an excellent choice for autumn: the vegetable is hardy, robust and only slightly susceptible to disease. It is also frost-resistant, so you can pick it all winter long. Many gardeners even swear by only harvesting kale after the first frost. This is because frost reduces bitterness of the leaves, making the plants taste twice as good.

Kale leaves in autumn
After the first frost, kale tastes even better [Photo: Riccardo Arata/ Shutterstock.com]

10. Spinach

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) does not tolerate one thing in particular − heat! So, what better time to sow spinach than in the cool days of autumn? For harvest in autumn and winter, sow spinach from the end of August until the beginning of October. The first tasty leaves can then be picked after just 6 to 8 weeks. Also, spinach is frost-tolerant, so there is nothing stopping it from being harvested in winter, and it provides us with many beneficial vitamins.

Spinach plant growing in autumn
Spinach can still be harvested in winter [Photo: Greens and Blues/ Shutterstock.com]

Although some vegetables can still be grown in autumn, the gardening season is slowly drawing to a close. However, preparations for next year are just getting started. Learn everything you need to know about green manuring in autumn in our article.

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