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The best vegetables to plant in October

Tips for selecting autumn plants and caring for them

A basket of freshly harvested vegetables
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Autumn is typically a season associated with harvesting. Rich cornucopias full of bounteous food and comforting dishes. Whether you’re celebrating the large harvest of a family farm or the smaller harvest of a personal garden, there are many delicious vegetables, fruits, and herbs to harvest, use, and preserve for winter. However, there are also plenty of crops that can be planted in October! Your garden doesn’t have to stay empty, you can begin growing new plants during fall.

Fall weather brings unique challenges and advisories. Here are some key factors to consider as you plant your crops, select seeds, and care for each plant properly. Keep reading to find out what the best vegetable to plant in October are.

View of a vegetable garden
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Planting seasons throughout the year

Fall vegetable gardening hinges on two things: The climate you reside in, and the amount of care you are able to dispense on your plot. Some varieties do require more care than others. Predictably, winter in most regions is not hospitable for plant growth. The only exception to this would be, of course, tropical or desert climates. For moderate areas, springtime is labeled as March through May. This time frame is ideal for many root vegetables, like potatoes, turnips, and radishes. You’ll see some of those vegetables recirculate again in the fall when the weather cools again.

As you get closer to May and even June, leafy greens like mustard and swiss chard can flourish. Next, the summer season, which covers June through August, is best for planting tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans. And that brings us to the fall.

October falls right in the middle of the final planting season of the year. Since the weather will start to cool, milder temperatures often bring rain. This means less watering for you and allows your garden to establish root systems in the ground.

3 beets growing, still partially underground
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Best vegetables for the fall

If you’re ready to whip up a hearty fall stew, you have your pick of vegetables to grow. Fall root vegetables include beets, carrots, radishes, and turnips. These colorful and resilient plants have the best cover in the case of early frosts, as long as the cold doesn’t penetrate too deeply into the ground. For greener options, try broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and most lettuce varieties. These leafy kinds tend to be frost tolerant and can even last through light snow on the ground.

Flavorful vegetables include garlic, onion, snow peas, and leeks. Especially if you add a good amount of mulch, you can increase protection from the varied fall elements. October can be an unpredictable time weather-wise, which is why these vegetables stand the best chance of surviving sudden fluctuations in temperature.

Person planting vegetables
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Foundational gardening practices

The key when choosing vegetables to plant in October is building better soil. To do this, go through your plot and clear out old debris. Next, it is important to till the soil. Tilling allows oxygen to reach deeper into the ground and keep your soil biologically active. Some gardeners prefer a no-till method, which disturbs the soil less but focuses on small, drilled holes when planting each seed. No-till prevents much of the topsoil disturbance. There are various pros and cons to the till and no-till method.

Once you’ve prepared the soil, it is time to plant. Take your time when planting, taking care to cover each crop thoroughly. When you top your seeds, insulate them thoroughly. A great way to reinforce this is to recycle fallen leaves and integrate organic matter with manure or other soils. Healthy root systems need to be watered every five to seven days, so depending on the amount of moisture your season brings, you’ll want to supplement your garden’s water supply.

Woman kneeling harvesting tomatoes
encierro / Shutterstock

What plants to avoid planting in October

Knowing the best plants to plant in October will get you far, but what about the plants you should avoid? In general, avoid planting fruits and vegetables that need warm weather to thrive. Melons, corn, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes are all better suited for spring and summer gardens. Plants that take longer to grow and mature should also be avoided, since they likely won’t mature before winter sets in. Additionally, winter is often quite dry. Even though rain and snow are common in winter, the water often freezes in the soil, making it difficult for plants to access. Plants that need a lot of moisture are less likely to thrive during winter.

The exception to all of this is if you have a greenhouse! Greenhouses are useful for keeping plants warm and moist through winter, making it much easier to grow summer vegetables out of season. If you have room indoors, you can also grow vegetables in your home.

October is one of the most beautiful times of the year. The leaves change, the weather cools, and the air is crisp and clean. If you’d like to get outside and indulge in the abundance of this magical season, try a vegetable garden. There is such a wide variety of vegetables that are able to flourish through frost and snow. Root vegetables especially circulate through both spring and fall planting periods. If you take the time to reinforce your soil, monitor the water supply, and plant early in the month, you’ll have a colorful spread to adorn your table. All you need is a small plot, a little patience, and a healthy appetite.

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