Plant now for a winter vegetable garden
July 7, 2009
By David Hayes
In the midst of temperatures hitting the mid-80s locally last week would seem like a strange time to plan your winter vegetable garden.
Yet, many hardy seeds can be planted now that will be ready for harvest come the first frost and beyond.
Master gardener Chris Diggs, who teaches a class on the topic at Squak Mt. Greenhouses and Nursery, said the local mild winter climate allows for a wide variety of vegetables to grow in a home garden with the right planning.
“Plan now, even though it’s almost 80 days before the average first frost date in October,” she said.
Diggs said the key is that the planting seasons are long and mild. So, many crops that start in the cool season can be planted again for the fall.
“I’ve actually seen some vegetables that taste better after the first frost, like cabbage and brussel sprouts,” Diggs said. “They concentrate more of the juices from the fall.”Winter squashes and pumpkins can be planted later in the season for harvesting in the late fall to early winter. That allows them to be stored and cooked throughout the winter months.
Another hardy, perennial plant is rhubarb. Plant it late in the season, as late even as October or November, and it can grow for many years regardless of the season.
Bulb vegetables, like onions and garlic, can be planted in late summer and harvested in winter, Diggs said.
She said the key to planting many of these vegetables so they’ll survive the frosty winter months is a raised bed. The moisture level can be better controlled and the bed can always be covered to protect the crop come the coldest days of the season.
“You have to make sure the seeds are kept wet,” Diggs added. “The earth dries out fast in the summer months.”
You may have to go as far as planting indoors first, where the soil can be better managed, before transferring the burgeoning seeds outdoors.
And vice versa is true of herbs, which can be started in the outdoor garden in the summer to fall months before being moved indoors for the winter.
Unfortunately, if you’re looking to plant tomatoes, watermelon, peppers or corn, you’re too late into the season, Diggs said.
She said the Washington State University King County extension has myriad useful guidelines by master gardeners to help your garden grow regardless of season. Because, with the right planning, while others are traveling to the grocery store in winter months to purchase vegetables shipped in from far away warmer climates, you can have the real deal straight from your own garden.
“There’s just a lot of personal satisfaction to pulling out your own vegetables,” Diggs said.
On the Web
Jane Garrison’s master gardener column appears this month online at www.issaquahpress.com.
Take a class
Chris Diggs offers a free class, “Seeding Fall Veggies,” at 10:30 a.m. July 11 at Squak Mt. Greenhouses & Nursery, 7600 Renton-Issaquah Road S.E.
Plan for a winter harvest
Vegetables When to plant Frost hardy?
Arugula late summer yes, light
Beets mid-summer yes, light
Broccoli mid-summer yes, very light
Brussels sprouts mid-summer yes, heavy
Carrots mid- to late summer yes, light
Corn late summer, early fall yes, light
Escarole late summer yes, light
Fava beans late summer, early fall yes, medium to heavy
Garlic early fall yes, light to medium
Kale mid-summer yes, medium to heavy
Leeks spring, fall yes, light
Lettuce late summer yes, very light
Mustard greens mid- to late summer yes, light
Onions late summer yes, light to medium
Radishes late summer yes, light to medium
Spinach late summer yes, light
Reach Reporter David Hayes at 392-6434, ext. 237, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.