Late Season Vegetables

close up of a radish growing in the ground with green leaves

Early August is a great time to start quick maturing cold tolerant vegetables for fall harvest. Lettuce, spinach, kale, radishes even peas, beets and green onions can be planted in mid to late summer and enjoyed in the fall. Some vegetables like Brussels sprouts are said to taste better if they go through a light fall frost. Below are a few tips to getting started on your late season vegetables.

Timing is everything. Be sure you know your typical last frost date in Iowa. Determine the days to maturity for your crop and count back. This will be the seed sowing date.

Conditions are different than spring. With new seedlings emerging in the heat of August, keep a close watch to be sure those tiny roots don’t dry out in the hot summer sun.

The germination rate may change. Most of these late season vegetables are also grown in early spring, but they behave differently when started outdoors in the heat of summer over indoors in the heat of your winter home. In most cases they will germinate faster. Peas are an exception; they will take a little longer to mature as a fall planting than a spring one.

Consider quick maturing vegetables. Plants like basil and bush beans do not tolerate frost but grow so quickly that you can squeeze a crop in with just 4 to 6 weeks left in the season.

Don’t forget the vegetables that overwinter. Garlic is planted in the fall, overwinters, and then sprouts and grows in the spring for a harvest next summer. Plan now to plant your garlic in fall. August is maybe a little early – think October. So you can enjoy it next year.

Some like it cold. There are several vegetables that will tolerate some pretty chilly temperatures. Peas, beets, and green onion can get down to the high 20’s. Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale can survive cold dips down to 20°F.

Good Vegetables for Late Season Planting


Quick-Maturing, Frost Sensitive Vegetables

  • Basil
  • Green beans (bush type)

Vegetables That Tolerate a Light Frost (Low 30’s °F)

  • Cilantro
  • Radish
  • Leaf lettuce
  • Mustard greens
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnips
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Kohlrabi

Vegetables That Tolerate it a Little Cooler (High 20’s °F)

  • Beets
  • Peas
  • Green onion
  • Spinach

The Hardiest Vegetables (Low20’s °F)

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Collard greens
  • Kale

The Vegetables that Overwinter

  • Garlic
  • Spinach (sometimes)

Prepared by Aaron Steil, Assistant Director  –  Photo caption: Radish Raphanus sativus ‘Rover Hybrid’