As the air temperature 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 5-10. Also, you should know that anything you are planting in October as part of your fall vegetable garden in cold winter climates will be planted for SPRING harvest. You won’t be seeing any harvests until early spring or later.
Find Your Garden Zone
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 10. If you don’t know what your garden zone is follow this link to find out!
October Planting Guide Zones 5-6
So what should you be planting in October in your backyard garden? I have listed below 6 cool-season vegetables that you can plant in October.
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.
When you plant 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 but most of the zones can plant shallots at the same time as garlic.
Which means a great crop of shallots in the late spring of 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 winter’s 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. However, 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!!
Order Mache Seeds here.
Kale planted in October will be ready to start harvesting leaves in early spring. It will likely germinate sometime 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 that 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. However 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!
Flower Spring Bulbs
This one may seem a little strange, but spring-blooming 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 of these perennials in your garden while you are filling your flower beds.
There are several other greens that, like leaf lettuce, are not the hardiest plants, but their smaller versions will survive the winter with the protection of a cold frame. You will be planting these for overwintering in the cold frame and for spring harvest. Some of these greens include:
Zones 7-8 October Planting List
Remember that most of the fall crops on this list are being planted for a SPRING harvest. Planting in the fall means that you will get a yummy spring harvest next year!
Let’s get started! Here’s what to plant in October in zones 7 & 8!
October is the perfect time for planting garlic. Planting garlic in the fall gives you a head start in the spring and will give you stronger, healthier, and larger bulbs.
You should plant garlic a week or two after your expected first frost date (notice this is the expected date not the actual date!) Use this frost date calculator to determine when your first frost is expected. You can learn more about growing garlic here: Garlic Growing Guide
Shallots are also best when you plant them in the fall. I recommend that you cover both your garlic and shallots with a layer of mulch to insulate the ground against the worst of the cold. You can learn more about growing shallots in the fall in this article: Growing Shallots
You can also try planting leafy greens. These will mostly be planted for overwintering, so you won’t be harvesting them before winter. You need to plan on protecting them over the winter with a cold frame, hoop house, or at least fabric row cover!
Mache is a perfect salad green for planting in October! Mache actually germinates best when the temperature is around 65 degrees in the daytime which makes it a great October crop! Mache will grow unprotected, but it will grow faster if you protect it with a hoop house.
Like Mache, Claytonia actually continues to grow even when there are less than 10 hours of daily sunlight in the garden! It’s a great winter crop!
Y’all know I love kale. It’s one of my favorite crops, especially in the winter! Kale planted in October will really take off in a few months (around February) giving you a yummy early spring harvest!
You can also plant spinach this month. Planting spinach in October means you are definitely thinking ahead! If it’s protected by a hoop house or cold frame it will grow slowly through the coldest months and then start to grow quickly once the days get longer in the early spring!
Swiss Chard is another hardy crop that you can start in October for a yummy early spring harvest!
These greens should be protected by a cold frame, hoop house, or fabric row cover because they aren’t quite as hardy as some of the others, but starting them now gives you a good head start for next year!
Zones 9-10 October Planting list
There are actually quite a few fall crops that you can get started in zones 9 & 10! Because the winters are milder there is much more to plant in these zones in October.
Plant by Transplants
We love broccoli! I’m jealous of those of you in zones 9 & 10 because you can still plant broccoli this month!
I love planting peas in the fall! They do require a little bit more work and they won’t be as productive as a spring planting, but it is well worth the effort! If you want to learn more about planting peas in the fall read this article: Planting Fall Peas
Other Crops to Plant by Transplant
Plant by Seed
Lettuce is a great crop for planting in October. Lettuce is fairly hardy, so it can handle any cooler temperatures later in the year! I recommend planting lettuce 8 weeks before your first frost.
You can continue planting up until 2 weeks before your first frost date! If you aren’t sure what your first frost date is use this frost date calculator to determine when your first frost is expected
Spinach is pretty hardy so it can handle cooler temperatures. We love that we can harvest spinach in our garden all winter long! Similar to lettuce, you should start planting spinach 8 weeks before your first frost date and you can continue up until 2 weeks before your first frost date!
Beets are another great crop you should be planting in October! Earlier plantings of beets will yield beetroots, while you will only be able to harvest the yummy tops if you plant later. If you want beetroots plan on planting 8 weeks before your first frost date!
Frost and cooler temperatures sweeten the taste of kale which is why October is a great time to direct sow it in your garden!
The cooler weather turns the starches in carrots into sugars which makes them an amazing treat for the winter! Learn more about growing carrots in the winter here: Growing Carrots for a Winter Harvest
Turnips are actually quite tasty! Look for Oriental varieties, they are especially yummy! You’ll want to start planting 8 weeks before your first frost date if you want to harvest roots.
Other Crops to Plant by Seed
Garlic & Shallots
Last, but definitely not least you can plant garlic and shallots this month. You will want to wait to plant until late in the month.
I always recommend planting garlic and shallots in the fall because you will get stronger, healthier, and larger bulbs. If you want to learn more you can read these articles: Growing Shallots, Planting Fall Garlic
What will you be planting in your garden this month? Is there anything that I missed?
I hope this October planting guide gets you thinking as you are cleaning up your garden this month. Look for empty spots in your garden that could become your fall garden. Check to see if you have any cool season vegetable seed packets laying around and find some places to plant some of these overwintering crops.
Questions? Please leave them in the comments below.
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