Five Fall Vegetables for the Home Garden

Florida is blessed with temperate autumns and winters, which make fall an ideal time to plant cool-season vegetables. Here are a few of our favorite fall selections. 


Baby lettuce

Lettuce is a hardy cool-season crop that grows well during cool weather. Several varieties of it are grown in practically every garden. Lettuce does best on a fertile soil, well supplied with fertilizer and moisture.

The four principle types of lettuce are crisphead, butterhead, leaf, and romaine. While all four types do best in the cooler months, to produce firm heads, crisphead varieties should be tried only during the coolest season. The leaf varieties grow exceptionally well here in Florida. They are colorful and decorative both in the garden and in salads. Sow seeds very shallow as they need light for germination. Intercrop lettuce with long-season vegetables. 

Recommended varieties include:

  • Crisphead: Great Lakes
  • Butterhead: Ermosa, Bibb, Tom Thumb, Buttercrunch
  • Loose Leaf: Simpson types, Salad Bowl, Red Sails, New Red Fire
  • Oak Leaf: Salad Bowl, Royal Oak
  • Romaine: Parris Island Cos, Outredgeous

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Mustard greens

One of the best cooking greens for fall through spring production is the garden mustard. ‘Florida Broadleaf’ is a favorite variety due to its extraordinary large leaves that may span 24 inches in width. ‘Curled Leaf’ produces smaller, deeply notched, light green leaves. Mustard does not produce edible roots.

Consider planting in a wide-row system. Broadleaf types require more space. Cook as “greens.” Mizuna is a Japanese green used in salads. It’s damaged by freezing temperatures.

Recommended varieties include: Southern Giant Curled, Florida Broad Leaf, Tendergreen, Giant Red, Green Wave, and Mizuna.

Read more about greens on Gardening Solutions.


Onions may be grown from seeds, sets, or plants. Time of planting is very important for bulb formation. Bulbing varieties that grow best in Florida are the short-day varieties. Therefore, they must be started in the fall (late September to mid-December) so that bulbing is induced by the short days of winter. Subsequent harvest of bulbs follows in the spring or early summer. For extra-large onion bulbs, try moving the soil away from the bulb as it grows. Spring onions, or green onions, may be started in fall, winter, and spring. Plant them close, and thin as needed. For straight plants, place the sets upright in the planting furrow.

Multiplier onions are hardy perennial bunching onions which do not form enlarged bulbs. The shallot is a special form of this type. Multipliers need to be divided and reset every year. 

Recommended varieties include:

  • Bulbing: Granex (yellow)
  • Bunching (Green): Evergreen Bunching, White Lisbon Bunching
  • Leeks: American Flag
  • Multipliers: Shallots

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Okay, so strawberries aren’t actually vegetables, but they are a tasty addition to the fall garden. In Florida, strawberries are grown as an annuals rather than as perennials. Obtain good, clean, disease-free plants from nurseries or plant suppliers early in the fall. Both bare-root transplants and potted plants are available. Set plants twelve inches by twelve inches apart on beds mulched with black plastic, straw, or spoiled hay. Plants set in the fall begin to blossom in the cold, short days of winter; berry production follows in the late winter and continues to around May. Runners grow from each mother plant in the summer and can be removed for resetting and further runner production. A fresh start with new plants is best for each subsequent year. Adaptable varieties are a must for satisfactory production under Florida conditions. Gardeners generally plant the same varieties that are grown by the commercial industry due to the seasonal availability of plants.

Recommended varieties include: Chandler, Oso Grande, Sweet Charlie, Selva, Camarosa, and Festival.

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Turnips with their foliage

Turnips are a quick-growing, cool weather crop grown both for the tops and for the roots. Space plants 4–6 inches apart for good bulb production. Thinned plants can be eaten as greens. Roots should not be allowed to become overmature, as they become hot, pithy, and stringy. Some varieties such as ‘Shogoin’ don’t form tuberous roots. For both roots and tops, ‘Purple Top White Globe’ is the leading variety. A “Swede turnip” is more commonly known as a rutabaga. Broadcast seed in wide-row system or single file. 

Recommended varieties include:

  • Roots: Purple Top White Globe
  • Roots and Greens: Purple Top
  • Greens: Seven Top, Shogoin

More on turnips from Gardening Solutions

Excerpted from the book “Vegetable Gardening in Florida,” by Dr. James Stephens and the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide.