October has arrived, and here in the Intermountain West, we are getting ready to clean our gardens and get ready for winter. But that is not the case for the entire country. If you live in a hardiness zone of 8, 9, 10, or 11, you can still grow a garden. In fact, this is the perfect time to grow fresh vegetables for the holidays. Those living in zone 7 may also grow a fall crop with some season-extending helpers. Find your zone on the USDA website, or check out the map below. While the hot summers are not a friend to your beloved vegetable garden, the fall is. With temperatures starting to cool off, October is a great time to start planting. Read on for a guide to the perfect cool-season vegetables for zones 8-11 and a few ideas for zone 7.
States Including a Portion of USDA Hardiness Zones 8-11
- New Mexico
- South Carolina
- North Carolina
Growing a fall/winter garden is easy when you live in the right location. Unlike those of us who live in high elevations and on frost-blessed land, you can enjoy the bountiful harvest of fresh vegetables for your Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year meals. Make this year’s feasts extra special with the taste of a home-grown harvest. If you find yourself living in zone 7, you may still grow a winter garden with some additional protection from the cold.
For information related to your local region and climate we recommend consulting your extension office and local universities. On our Hardiness Zones by State page, you can find links to your state's agricultural information and resources. We have also included links to other universities that provide information for growing in similar climates. I would highly suggest you peruse the information provided by these universities for continued growing success and regional updates.
Preparing A Fall/Winter Garden in USDA Zones 8-11
- Step 1: Clear existing plants from your growing space
- Step 2: Amend your soil with compost and fertilizer
- Step 3: Allow your soil to rest for 1-2 weeks
- Step 4: Plant your seeds and starts
Vegetables for Cool-Weather Gardens in Zones 8-11
When to Harvest a Warm Climate Winter Garden?
Enjoy your favorite family meals with the exceptional added taste of fresh vegetables from the garden. You can expect to harvest these vegetables between November and March. For a continual harvest, plant in succession. Planting things like lettuce and carrots in batches a week apart will provide you with a fresh harvest every week. Don’t worry about eating everything from your garden as it is harvested. You can preserve leftovers through freezing, canning, drying, fermenting, and more. You never know when a big storm or natural disaster will leave you needing a good supply of food storage.
As these plants reach the end of their winter season, it will be time to get your tomatoes and peppers in the ground. Just be sure to amend your soil and allow a couple of weeks to rest between crops. For the best results from year-round gardening use no-till or no-dig practices to preserve your soil structure. Observe Charles Dowding, English Horticulturalist who is known for his writing and no-dig practices, as he explains the differences between his traditional digging and no-dig/no-till trial gardens on his youtube channel.