Some people think that summertime is the only time you can enjoy fresh salad greens from the garden, but the reality is you can easily grow greens in the fall. In fact, you may even get a better yield of autumn crop greens versus those grown during the summer months since many fall leafy salad greens are cool season crops that prefer the temperatures of autumn.
Types of Autumn Crop Greens
Fall leafy greens to grow include:
Growing Autumn Greens
Salad greens are cool weather crops that generally germinate their best when temps are around 70 degrees F. (21 C.). When soil temperatures dip below 50 degrees F. (10 C.) or above 80 degrees F. (27 C.), germination rates begin to fall off.
Once seeds have germinated and have their first true set of leaves, they thrive when temperatures are around 60 degrees F. (16 C.), which in many areas of the country make growing fall leafy greens ideal.
Sow a variety so you have a good mix of greens that will give your salads optimal flavor, texture, and color.
When Do You Plant Fall Salad Greens?
Before sowing your fall leafy greens, be sure you know the average first frost date for your region. This will help you to determine when to sow seeds.
Some greens, like kale, are incredibly hardy and will continue to grow even when temperatures drop below 50 degrees F. (10 C.). Depending upon your USDA zone, you can grow autumn greens that have been sown in June, July, or August – some areas may even get by with sowing in September. If you do grow greens indoors, you can keep a continuous supply by sowing anytime.
Seeds can be sown directly into the garden or started indoors for later transplant (or left in pots inside). Sowing every two weeks will give you plenty of lettuce and a continuous crop. Prior to sowing autumn crop greens, turn the soil and mix in either a balanced fertilizer or good quality compost to replenish the nutrients the summer crops have used.
Keep in mind that while temperatures may be optimal for growth during the day, nighttime temps are getting a bit chilly in the fall. You may want to grow autumn green under a cloth, in a cold frame, or be prepared to cover the plants with a garden quilt during cold nights.
By thinking creatively about maintaining a microclimate that fall salad greens will thrive in and by successive planting every two weeks, you will be able to feed your family nutritious and delicious home-grown salads practically year-round.