Summer Planting for a Winter Garden

Believe it or not, the time to plant a winter garden is just around the corner. This year, it feels especially soon considering the cold and rainy start to the summer.  In the Pacific Northwest, we are very lucky to live in a mild climate that allows us to plan for a winter garden. With the growing number of school and home gardens, we thought we would post a gentle reminder about planning and planting for your winter garden.

According to a recent newsletter by our friends at the School Garden Project of Lane County, the two things to keep in mind when planting a winter garden are timing and varieties (check out the newsletter and this article from Oregon State Extension and for more info).

  • Timing: Winter gardening should begin mid- to late summer as plants require the longer, warmer days to get established before heading into winter.  A challenge can be getting some seeds to germinate in warm and dry soil during the hotter days of summer.  Shade cloth and floating row cover can help limit water evaporation and reduce soil temperature.  Limited space is another obstacle the winter gardener faces as summer crops take-over garden beds.  Planning ahead proves to be important for the year-round, intensive gardener in order to allocate space for winter planting.  Also, being strategic by inter-planting slower growing winter vegetables in near established summer crops will be a space-saver as well as a good protection for seedlings from excess heat. For more information on interplanting, check out: John Jeavons’ book How to Grow More Vegetables (an interview with Mr. Jeavons about biointensive gardening can be found here).
  • Varieties: Varietal selection is crucial for winter gardening.  Plants are bred for different seasons and grow best in their intended time of year.  Be attentive to the variety of crop when choosing seeds and starts.  For instance, overwintering varieties will survive the colder temperatures better than those intended for summer and fall harvests.

The best time to sow the slower growing and hardiest overwintering root crops (carrots, beets, parsnips) and members of the brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage) is early July.  Late in the month and early August quicker growing crops like leeks, onions, chard, and spinach can be planted.  Again, variety is key when choosing winter-appropriate seeds and starts.  Be sure to consult your trusty garden expert whether that includes the seed company, your local garden store, an experienced neighbor who gardens, or a planting guide for your specific region (check out the Maritime Northwest Garden Guide for an easy resource and this site).  With all of information out there for gardeners, a good rule of thumb is to inquire twice and plant once!

Happy winter gardening!  And thanks to our Youth Grow intern, Andryce, for her work on this great post!

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