Fall Vegetable Planting

Question: Can I still plant vegetables in my garden? J.W.

Answer: Mid-September is late for planting most vegetables but you might be able to successfully grow leafy greens and similar frost tolerant crops.  Choose varieties with a seed to harvest interval of 45 to 50 days or less. Some crops, like leaf lettuce, can be harvested before full maturity by cutting off side leaves as they grow. Floating row cover, low hoops, or similar frost protection can extend the growing season into November.

Garlic should be planted in fall about 6 to 8 weeks before the ground freezes. Cloves root and produce shoots below the soil surface in fall.  In spring, garlic begins growing as soon as the soil warms.

Garlic is divided into two types: those with hard flower stalks and those without.  Hardneck garlic produces a tall flower stalk with a cluster of tiny bulbs (bulbils) and undeveloped flowers at the top.  Hardneck varieties are sometimes grouped together under the name rocambole.  Because of their more complex flavor profile, hardneck varieties are considered gourmet.  However, most do not store as well as softneck garlics.

Softneck garlics do not produce a hard central stalk or aboveground clusters of bulbils.  These bulbs often have many more cloves than hardneck types.  The leaves form a false stem above the ground, which softens and falls over as the garlic matures, very much like onion tops.  Softnecks are traditional supermarket garlics, because they yield more, store better, and are easier to grow than hardnecks. The soft, pliable stems of softnecks are the best for braiding.

Garlic is a fairly heavy feeder that prefers fertile soils.  Organic matter and a balanced fertilizer should be thoroughly worked into the bed before planting.

Just before planting, break bulbs apart into individual, unpeeled cloves. The size and weight of the clove planted affects the eventual size of the bulb formed. Bigger cloves make bigger bulbs. Plant the cloves 3 to 4 inches deep and about 4 inches apart.

Cover the planting bed with shredded leaves or straw after the ground freezes.  Mulch prevents frost heaving, cold injury, and premature growth in the late winter.


Barb Larson is horticulture educator for Kenosha County University of Wisconsin Extension. Barb has a Master’s of Science in horticulture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. If you have a plant or gardening question, email Larson at barbara.larson@kenoshacounty.org or call her at 262-857-1942.