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Extension: How to cultivate a successful fall garden

As summer vegetables stop producing and the hours of daylight become fewer, it’s time to start planning and preparing our fall gardens. 

One advantage of gardening in the fall is cooler temperatures that make gardening more pleasant. Another advantage is that most fall vegetables are leafy green plants that don’t require pollinators to produce the part we eat. This means gardeners can use low hoop houses to protect the plants against pests, and to capture a few more growing days out of the fall season.  

Living in north Georgia, we have a delicate balance between starting fall vegetables early enough to allow them to mature before a hard frost and nursing them through the seedling stage while the summer days are still hot. In addition to excluding pests, the shade cloth covering of a low hoop house blocks out some of the heat from the sun, allowing us to plant cool season vegetables in late August.

Later in the season, the shade cloth traps heat from the earth inside the hoop house and can raise the temperature around our crops by a few degrees. Some cool season vegetables can overwinter in the garden for an early spring harvest.

Because they take longer to mature, some fall vegetables are best purchased as transplants. 

These include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. Vegetables that can be planted as seeds are beets, bunching onions, carrots, collards, kale, lettuce, mustard, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips.

Here are some cultivars of cool season vegetables that do well in Georgia:

Broccoli – Marathon, Packman, Patriot, Premium Crop, Bravo, Decathion;

Cabbage – Blue Dynasty, Bravo, Early Round Dutch, Rio Verde, Green Jewel;

Carrots – Chantenay, Scarlet Nantes, Sweetbites, Sweet Delight;

Cauliflower – Absolute, Early Snowball, Graffiti (purple), White Magic, Symphony;

Collard Greens – Blue Max, Georgia Southern, Hevi-Crop;

Kale – Vates, Dwarf Siberian, Blue Armor, Blue Knight

Lettuce – Butterhead, Romaine, Buttercrunch;

Mustard Greens – Florida Broadleaf, Southern Giant Curled, Red Giant, Savannah;

Onion, Green – White Portugal;

Onion, Dry Bulb – Burgundy, Excel, Grano, Red Creole, Savannah Sweet;

Radish – Cherry Bell, Scarlet Globe, Champion;

Spinach – Melody, Winter Bloomsdale.

Early fall is also a good time to have your soil tested. A laboratory soil test takes the guesswork out of determining whether you need fertilizer or lime for your fall garden crops.  Visit the Forsyth County Extension website at for directions on taking soil samples, then bring your dry soil to the Extension office along with the $10 testing fee.

If you’re new to food gardening, here are more tips for a successful fall harvest: 

• Locate the garden in full sunlight – 6-8 hours per day;

• Prepare the soil before planting based in soil test recommendations;

• Plant on schedule using recommended varieties

• Control weeds, pest insects, and diseases;

• Water thoroughly at soil level when needed to supplement rainfall. 

And, as always, if you have any questions, contact the Forsyth County Extension Office at 770-887-2418. 

Article by Beverly Adams, the Agriculture and Natural Resources program assistant for the UGA Extension Forsyth County.