Fall/Winter Garden Planning

…but it’s only July!!  How could we possibly be thinking about fall and winter gardening when it’s 99 degrees outside?  When the sunflowers are blooming, you know it’s time to plant seeds for your fall garden.

The trick about having food into the cooler months is planning for it.  And unfortunately, that means thinking about it now!  Although on days like this when it’s fever temp outside, dreaming up an autumn feast sounds pretty good to me.  I’m ready for fall stews and kale salads with fresh apples….yum.  Can we skip August?

Luckily for you, Edy will be providing you some starts that will be timed perfectly for fall harvest.  Hooray!

For the rest of us, starting seeds now (and doing our best to keep them cool in the heat) is the name of the game.  Of course, you can always buy starts in a month or so that are ready to go as well- just don’t wait too long to plant them!  The main thing you want to think about accomplishing is getting sizable plants in the ground by August.  If you’re planting seeds now try to keep them moist and cool- overhead water and shade cloth can help with this.

Peaceful Valley has a nice little video about this very subject.

Here’s the scoop- even though days can be super hot all through the fall, plants take their cues from the light that’s available during the day (which is decreasing).  On the summer solstice, the days began to shorten and even though we are in the thick of it right now, the light is waning and the plants know it.

So, the trick to fall and winter gardening is managing to grow a more or less full sized plant by late September/October.  Plants can and will continue to grow after that but the growth rate slows way down as the light and temperatures shift- with growth stopping when daylight is 10 hours or less.  Your fall garden goal is to grow a mature plant during the last part of summer that just hangs out in the cooler weather, waiting for you to be ready to enjoy it.

If you can do that, you will be rewarded with harvests through the cooler months ahead!

If you really want to nerd out (or appreciate how farmers plan for successive winter harvests) check out Johnny’s guide to winter growing, or the book Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman.

Crops that are good for a fall/winter garden:

  • Carrots, beets, kohlrabi
  • Brassicas (kales, collard greens, cauliflower, broccoli, mustard, arugula)
  • lettuces (just for fall- winter is too cold unless you have them covered or live in south county)
  • special colder weather greens like endive, chicory or raddichio
  • peas
  • radishes, salad turnips
  • cilantro
  • spinach
  • garlic (the exception- plant in Oct! You don’t harvest this till next summer!)

And if all you can do right now is to keep watering what you have and harvesting- that’s fine!  You’ll be ready to plant a great cover crop in the fall.