Fall Vegetable Gardening Starts Now

By Marsha Goldberg, Fairfax Master Gardener
You’re finally enjoying the luscious bounty from your garden, the payoff for all the hard work you did this spring by starting seeds or moving transplants to your plot. You can pick most of those wonderful summer vegetables and use the pungent herbs right up until the first frost kills them. In Fairfax County the first frost hits somewhere between October 19th and October 29th to the west of I-95 and early November to the east and south, according to the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE).

lettuce

Being a cool season crop, lettuce is perfect for a fall garden

But what about late fall and winter? With some careful planning and a bit more work in the garden, you can continue to eat fresh vegetables right through the winter. The secret is to choose vegetables that can tolerate the cold weather and even thrive in it.

If you harvested early season vegetables such as lettuce, peas, and spinach in May, you can use their planting spots for fall crops. Amend the soil with fresh compost and let it rest for a few weeks before planting new seeds in late summer. Most seeds will germinate in the heat and then start producing as the weather turns cool. Some lettuce varieties, however, do not germinate well in soil temperatures above 75 degrees F. Read the instructions on the seed p