While you can look for transplants at garden centers for some of these plants, many can be direct-seeded right into the ground. "Get these plants established before cold weather," says Colin McCrate, owner and founder of Seattle Urban Farm Company and author of Food Grown Right, in Your Backyard and High-Yield Vegetable Gardening. "You want them to put in a root system and size up so they'll tolerate cooler temperatures and fewer hours of daylight as we move into autumn."
What it needs: Sow spinach directly into your garden in late July or early August. Because it doesn't germinate well in temperatures higher than 85 degrees, help reduce soil temperature by keeping it moist. After the first frost (or even the first snow), spinach may look frozen or wilted, but wait for the sun to come out and perk it up, then harvest. "I've seen spinach survive under snow well into winter. It's incredibly hardy," says Smith.
Varieties to try: Red Kitten or Emperor, although almost any type of spinach performs well in cool temperatures.
What it needs: Sow carrot seeds by late July to early August. Keep the soil moist because they won't germinate in dry soil. Thin plants because if they're too close together, they'll be stunted and deformed. Try mulching with straw to make your harvest last longer. While they won't keep growing in cold weather, they will become sweeter-tasting after a frost, says Smith.
Varieties to try: Scarlet Nantes, Nelson and Napoli
What it needs: Plant cilantro in mid-to late summer for a fall crop. Sow successive crops over a week to maintain a fresh supply as this plant flowers and seeds quickly. Once plants go to seed, harvest and dry the seeds, which are coriander. Cilantro is somewhat frost tolerant, and established plants may live through winter in moderate climates, says McCrate.
Varieties to try: Calypso or Santo, which is slower to go to seed.
Pansies or Violas
What it needs: Plant these anytime throughout the season for pretty and delicious garnishes for salads or baked goods. They have good frost tolerance and will keep for a few days in the fridge in a plastic bag, says McCrate.
Varieties to try: Choose a selection of colors such as Penny All Season mix.