As the weather cools and you start putting your garden to bed for the winter use this October planting guide to get a few seeds in your garden for spring harvest.
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As you read this post, please keep in mind that this October Planting Guide is intended for those of us living in USDA Zones 4 to 7. Also, you should know that anything you are planting in October in cold winter climates will be planted for SPRING harvest. You won’t be seeing any harvests until early spring or later.
Let me start out by giving you a quick link. This post is meant for those of you living mainly in Garden Zones 5 to 6. If you don’t know what your garden zone is follow this link to find out!
October Planting Guide
So what should you be planting in October in your backyard garden?
The first crop in our October planting guide is garlic! Fall is the perfect time to plant your garlic. Garlic planted in the fall will grow stronger, healthier and larger bulbs next summer. By planting in the fall you get a huge head start in the spring. In fact in my opinion, if you didn’t get your garlic planted in the fall then don’t bother until next season!
Garlic is best planted a week or 2 after your first expected fall frost (notice I said expected, not actual). For us, that means we are planting around October 15th. But if you have missed that date already, all is not lost. You can plant garlic right up until the day before your ground freezes. In fact one year I planted as late as November 5 (5 weeks after our first frost date) and still had a great crop the following summer.
Like garlic, shallots are often best planted in the fall. They are not quite as cold hardy as garlic so those of you in Zone 4 or lower may have some trouble, but for most of us planting shallots at the same time as garlic means a great crop of shallots in the late spring next year. I also recommend for both shallots and garlic that you cover the beds with a nice layer of mulch to help insulate the ground from the worst of winters cold.
Corn Salad or Mache is a little-known salad green that grows very well in cool and even cold weather. Mache is one of only 2 crops I know of (claytonia being the second) that will continue to grow when we have less than 10 hours of daylight in our gardens.
In fact, Mache loves growing this time of year and germinates better in temperatures around 65 degrees in the daytime. So October is the perfect time to plant.
Newly planted Mache is hardy enough that it can survive being unprotected in the garden over the winter. BUT it will do much better and grow much quicker with the protection of a cold frame or hoop house.
Mache planted in October should germinate before the super cold weather comes and then will slowly grow in your hoop house and will be ready to start eating in February!!
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Kale planted in October will be ready to start harvesting leaves in early spring. It will likely germinate some time this month and then will sit quietly over the winter in your hoop house. Once the 10 hour days return in February, it will start growing again for a very early harvest!
Next on the October planting guide is spinach. If you choose to plant spinach in October you are for sure planning for the future. October planted spinach will likely germinate late in the month and possibly get one or two “true leaves” before the cold sets in. If protected by a hoop house or cold frame you will find the spinach grows slowly while we have less than 10 hours of daylight. Once the sunshine returns in February these tiny plants will take off. Giving you your earliest (and longest) spinach harvest ever!
Number 6 on the October Planting guide is lettuce. Lettuce is not nearly as hardy as the other crops listed above. But small, newly germinated lettuce plants are actually quite hardy. Planted now the seeds will germinate and grow just a little.
Protect them with a cold frame and when things start to warm up in early spring these plants will burst into production with a very early crop!
This one may seem a little strange, but flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils, crocus, and others make a colorful addition to your spring vegetable garden. Although not eatable, they will provide flowers to attract early emerging pollinators to your garden. (and hopefully, encourage them to stick around!!) So plant a few bulbs in your garden while you are filling your flower beds.
There are several other greens that, like lettuce, are not the hardiest plants, but their smaller versions will survive the winter with the protection of a cold frame. Some of these greens include arugula, endive, radicchio, dandelion, beets, turnips or even radishes. Again you will be planting these for overwintering in the cold frame and for spring harvest.
I hope this October planting guide gets you thinking as you are cleaning up your garden this month. Look around and find some places to plant some of these overwintering crops. Now is also the perfect time to consider building a simple cold frame or hoop house to protect crops over the winter and to give your spring crops a head start!
Questions? Please leave them in the comments below.
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