Growing Trends in Vegetable Crops
What to Plant Now — Beets • Fennel • Kale
Across much of the United States and Canada, July is the time to plan and, in some cases, even plant your fall crops. By choosing the best varieties for fall, scheduling plantings carefully, and growing sufficient quantities, you can extend your marketing season well beyond your frost date.
In this article, we suggest three crops — beets, fennel, and kale — that not only make great choices for autumn markets, but continue to rank in the top 10 trending vegetables. An abundant display of these popular vegetables is sure to attract customers to your stand.
It is easy to understand why beets are increasing in popularity. This "two for one" vegetable offers great colors and shapes, sweet flavor, and high nutritional value. As the weather cools off in fall, beets get sweeter and their colors get more intense.
The second half of this "two for one" vegetable is the leaves. They can be red or green and sold either separately as beet green bunches or with young beets still attached.
We recommend direct seeding beets 8 weeks before heavy frost and freezes. They can tolerate light frost, and row cover can help extend the season for the beet tops even longer. Johnny's also has pelleted beet seeds, which make planting with a precision seeder much easier.
At market, display beets with the colorful roots facing the customer. Cut a few in half to show the tender inner flesh, and mist the beets frequently to keep them shiny and colorful.
Fennel has enjoyed a rich history, and was revered by the ancient Greeks and Romans for its medicinal and culinary properties.
Increased exposure on cooking channels and in food blogs has brought bulb fennel back into the spotlight. Its mild anise flavor and crispy, celery-like texture make it a good choice for fresh eating in salads or with dips. It can also be baked, roasted, and sautéed.
Fennel can be grown in spring or fall, but is best in fall because it is less likely to bolt as the weather gets cool. Plant it earlier than beets or kale because it takes longer to mature. It is also less tolerant of frost than many other fall crops, so you should be prepared to cover it with row cover in the event of an early frost. The hybrid variety Orion is a reliable producer of large, uniform bulbs resulting in overall higher crop yields.
Fennel can be harvested in the baby stage, 2½–3" across, or left to grow to maturity at 4–5" across. Display baby fennel bunched or bagged at market; full-size bulbs are sold loose, usually with the fronds trimmed. Leaf fennels, used as an herb or cut flower filler, are varieties which do not form marketable bulbs. Small fronds of leaf fennel are a unique addition to salad mixes.
Like many other greens, kale is descended from a wild cabbage thought to have originated in Asia Minor, now Turkey. During World War II, the cultivation of kale in the UK was encouraged because it was easy to grow and provided important nutrients to supplement those missing from a normal diet because of food rationing.
Kale's popularity is a result of its versatility, flavor, and high nutritional content. Considered to be the workhorse of the fall and winter garden, kale is extremely cold tolerant. In most places, it can be harvested all winter, from beneath snow or row cover and certainly from a low tunnel or high tunnel. Plant it abundantly to ensure a long harvest, as new growth will diminish as the days get shorter in the fall.
Kale varies in appearance by variety so much that it almost looks like different vegetables. Winterbor, the most cold-hardy variety, is green and curly. Toscano has long, thin, heavily blistered leaves of dark green. Red Russian has smooth, flat, bluish green leaves with a reddish tinge, and purple stems.
Mixed kale bunches are attractive on display, and are a great way to encourage people to try the different types. Combining Winterbor with the less bulky Toscano makes a nice full bunch; including a little Red Russian adds color and a different texture.
Now's the Time
Demand for these popular vegetables continues to increase. Extend your marketing season and attract new customers by offering a variety of beets, kale, and bulb fennel at your fall market.
- Browse our research team's Recommended Vegetable, Herb, & Flower Crops to Plant in Summer for Harvesting through Fall.
- View a comprehensive list of all of Johnny's Crops for Summer Planting and Fall Harvesting.
- Johnny's Fall Planting Calculator can help you calculate the best time to plant all your fall crops.