Time to Plant the Winter Garden


Summer is moving past its peak and the summer garden is winding down.  The corn is harvested, late beans are coming in, and the last of the melons are waiting to be picked.  Many people are tired of planting, weeding, and harvesting by now and are ready to think of quitting the garden soon for the winter.  But not you!  That’s because you enjoy cool season vegetables and want to feed your family from your land for more months of the year.  You’ve kept your garden covered with plants, straw, or grass clippings eliminating much of your weeding.  And you’ve planned your garden spaces to allow for cold hardy vegetables to go in as soon as summer ones quit producing.  How you prepare for winter gardening is important, and which seeds you plant matters as well.  Freshen up beds with well-aged compost before putting in the cool season vegetables so that they have nutrients to draw from.

 Blog18  winter cabbages and lettuce

There are three ways of approaching cold season planting:  direct seeding, starting your own seedlings, or purchasing transplants.  The problem with buying your seedlings is that your choices are very limited.  So we’re going to limit today’s conversation to seeding directly in the soil and starting your own seedlings.  With both approaches you’ll be able to select exactly which varieties you want to grow.

 Blog18  seedlings

Certain vegetables simply grow better when sown directly where you want them rather than transplanting them.  Many greens and anything that matures in the soil fit this category.  So plan late summer/early fall spaces for winter radishes, beets, turnips, rutabaga, kohlrabi, lettuce, kale, spinach, mache, and tatsoi.  Hopefully you’ve set up a lighted growing area in your home by now and are ready to start your seeds indoors.  A sunny window can work as well, and it’s warm enough outside that you can start seed trays outside if you follow a few precautions.  You don’t want the temperature to drop below 60 so bring the trays in if the nighttime temps will be lower than that.  Seed starting trays are usually covered with transparent covers to retain moisture, but they’ll also bring the heat up drastically if left in bright sunshine.  So keep your outdoor starter trays in a lightly shaded, yet warm area.  I start mine on a large light table that my husband built in an unused alcove of our house.

 Blog18  August planting

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