I know you’re just getting your tomatoes in the ground, right?
As we eagerly prep for a summer garden, winter vegetables are likely the farthest thing from our minds. But right now is a great time to get a few long-season winter crops in the ground.
Focus a bit of attention on crops of the cabbage family, for instance. But also consider a couple of root crops that need a much longer season to develop.
The list, with recommended varieties, includes:
If your soil temperature is up to the 60 degree range (possible, with a raised bed and/or a season extension covering like a cloche), you can start any of these in the ground and expect them to come up in one to two weeks. Parsnips are notoriously slow to germinate, but be patient.
If you are still dealing with cool soil, all of these except parsnips can be started in pots in the house, then transplanted when there are two sets of true leaves, or when the leeks are swizzle-stick size.
Find some spots in your garden where these long-season crops won’t bother your summer growing, but also consider locations that will be easily accessible in winter, and will be somewhat protected against winter winds.
Remember to give them enough space to reach their ultimate size. Because these plants are slow to develop, however, you might be able to space them in rows that are a bit wider and interplant some quick-growing crops like salad greens, which would be harvested before the plants have sized up.
The sweet reward, once the last tomato is just a memory, will be worth pulling your attention away from the summer crops to attend to a bit of winter planting.
Thinking of picking up your vegetable plant starts this weekend at the big Seattle Tilth Edible Plant Sale in Wallingford? I recommend it.
See me Sunday, 10:30 a.m.
And if you come Sunday morning, you will find me there! I’ll be doing a show-and-tell about season extension products and techniques, starting at 10:30 in the education tent. Grab a coffee (available on site) and join me.
I might even rave a bit about my favorite heirloom varieties available at this year’s sale.
The Seattle Tilth sale, if you’ve never been, is a cornucopia of veggie starts. The tables are laden with flat after flat of tomato starts — more varieties than available anywhere else. They also always have a lot of pepper starts and eggplants.
They stock plenty of cool-season crops too.
The Brassicas will be plentiful — kale, collards, cabbage, broccoli, even Brussels sprouts — and there will be Asian greens, edible weeds, lettuce galore and lovely leeks.
You’ll find the education tent along with live music and a number of vendors in Meridian Park adjacent to the sale site.
Try the Master Gardener Sale Too
Now, when you’re done with the Tilth sale, but if you have a hankering for more, get on over to the King County Master Gardener Plant Sale at the Center for Urban Horticulture.
There you’ll find loads of perennials in all shapes and sizes, and get expert growing advice from the swarm of Master Gardeners working the sale.
I will be on duty late in the day, but there are plenty of MG’s more knowledgeable than me who would love to be your personal shopper and help you find the perfect plants for your garden.
And if you have a plant with a problem, bring it along and get a diagnosis. Be sure to cut a sample shortly before coming and bring it in a plastic bag. This is a great free service provided by Master Gardeners whenever and wherever we host information tables (farmers markets, big-box hardware stores, etc.), but it's a bonus to have it at the plant sale too.
The proceeds from each of these great plant sales benefit the non-profit organizations who run them. So take a break from visiting your favorite nursery this weekend and make Sunday your plant sale day.
Join me and fellow authors Joshua McNichols (Urban Farm Handbook) and Colin McCrate (Food Grown Right, In Your Backyard), and chef/instructor Lesa Sullivan for Gardening 101, a free, three-hour short course on Saturday, April 27.
It will give you everything you need to get your edible garden started right, and great tips on how to cook what you grow. There’s even a seed exchange after the last talk, which is mine. Also, all three authors will have our books available for sale and signing.
This Sustainable Ballard event starts at 10 a.m., and there’s no need to pre-register. Hope to see you there!