Vegetable gardening doesn’t have to end in the fall in our mild maritime climate. With some planning and a few specialized techniques, you can be growing and eating food from your garden year-round.
Imagine… crisp winter cabbages, sturdy kale leaves to chop into hearty soups, amazingly sweet early-spring carrots, and so many fall greens and peas that you’ll think it’s spring again!
Growing food year round is the topic of my forthcoming book Cool Season Gardening. To contribute to the Urban Farm Handbook Challenge, I’ll share a few tips from the book.
There are two keys to year-round edible gardening: timing the planting of your fall and winter crops, and using season extension techniques.
Season extension means using cloches, cold frames, floating row cover and other tools and methods. These are set up in the garden in fall, winter and early spring to protect your plants from our rainy winter weather. Those soggy, short days are too cool for many veggies to handle.
Season extension will help your plants get through those days and start growing again on nice days or when the growing season begins in early spring.
But that’s a lot to tackle, so I suggest starting more simply. Let’s talk about timing.
Right now, in early July, is the perfect time to be thinking about your winter garden.
It seems unfair, because we really haven’t been blessed with summer weather yet. I maintain that summer in the Maritime Northwest doesn’t start until July 15. Weather guru Cliff Mass said July 12 on his KPLU radio forecast this week, so I don’t think I’m far off.
While we’re waiting for summer, let’s plan for winter. Here are three things to do now to get an easy winter garden started:
When you first plant your seeds, cover them loosely with a piece of FRC, held down at the edges so the wind won’t take it. You can water right over the top of it. Water, light and air go through. It will help keep the soil from drying out quite as fast between waterings, which is essential for a good start of summer-planted seeds. Pull it off when the seedlings start to push it up.
From the vast brassica family to root crops to a parade of leafy greens, start planning now so you can have a stellar lineup of home-grown food on your table year-round.
Want to learn more about winter gardening?
Come to my workshop at City People’s Garden Store on Saturday, July 15. It’s free, but registration is required.