Fall and Winter Gardening
Growing Vegetables in Your Own Garden for Fresh Fall and Winter Harvest
Want to keep your winter food bills down and enjoy really fresh tasting vegetables in the fall and winter?
Do you want to eat fresh, healthy, organic produce from your garden through the winter? Well you can do it by following simple methods for fall and winter gardening and choosing the right vegetables and varieties.
With a little planning, choosing the right vegetables and planting them at the right time you can have food from your garden for most of the year
Fall and Winter gardening is a great way to extend your growing season and the amount of food you can grow for yourself.
Fall and Winter Gardening Basics
Growing vegetables in the winter is not as daunting as you might think. Winter vegetables are actually some of the same vegetables as we grow in the spring and summer. The difference is that they are specific varieties that will grow and mature in cool weather.
If your think about what grows in your landscape - many green plants continue to growin the fall. Of course there are not many berries or fruit that ripen later in the year, but you can certainly grow greens. And, of course root vegetables, being underground can continue to grow intheir warmer environment and will keep well in the ground well into the cold months. You just pull them up and eat them fresh as you need them.
When we lived in Queec (zone 4) we grew Brussels Sprouts. I remember one Christmas we went out into the garden and chipped ice off the sprouts in otder to pick them for dinner. They are wonderfully hardy and the taste improves with a bit of frost.
How To Determine Your Climatic Zone
Really Early Spinach - Plant in Fall and It Will Start To Grow As Soon As Its Warm Enough
The trick to very early spinach - and lettuce - lies in the built in nature of the seeds themselves; so its very easy for us gardeners. If you plant spinach or lettuce in the fall when the ground is cold (October for zones 4 through 8), it will lie dormant. WHen it begins to warm up in the spring the seed will germinate and begin to grow. This is because both vegetables germinate well at cooler temperatures and are not harmed by being frozen.
What is Fall and Winter Gardening - How Can I Really Get Food From My Garden in the Winter?
What we really need are some definitions. Use thes concepts to grow more food, year round.
Fall Gardening-these vegetables are planted in spring or summer - they are intended to be harvested in the fall. Many of the common root crops are planted for this purpose-carrots, beets, parsnips, turnip all grow well for a time and then are harvested in the fall.
Winter Gardening-In milder climates (coastal Oregon, Washington state and BC being one), many vegetables can be grown for winter harvest. These are veggies that are planted in the summer with the intent that they are grown to a good size by the time fall sets in. Once it does, they will grow very very slowly but you can still harvest and enjoy-so plant with this in mind.
Overwintering-Some veggies can be planted so that they hibernate through the winter and when spring comes, they astart to grow and will reach maturity very early in the spring. Bonus - they do this without protection.
Fall and Winter Gardening in the Pacific Northwest
We live a couple of hours north of Vancouver in BC; climatic Zone 8. This is true for most of the Coast from north of us (as far as the highway goes), most of Vancouver Island and down south through Washington state into Oregon. In our mild climate, vegetables can be grown very successfully in a cold frame, greenhouse, or under row cover (Remay) for the entire year.
The major barrier to growing all of the types of vegetables is light levels and germination temperatures. If the earth is too cold, the seeds will not germinate. As well, if light level are too low, some vegetables will not grow - you can either add lighting or choose vegetables that do not require s much light.
We have also farmed in a Zone 4 climate and found that you can apply fall and winter techniques there as well. The same is true everywhere - as the temperatures get cooler, growing slows. However some of these techniques work even in colder climatic zones - some with added protection and some just for a shorter period of time.
Benefit From Our Experience
After living with the opportunity to grow vegetables for so much of the year, we took the challenge to write it all down, veggie by veggie in a guide that lets you too grow great fresh food in the fall and winter. See it here.
You can harvest root vegetables well into the fall in any ZOne 4 to 8 climate. Here are some tips.
- Beets— To harvest roots into the fall, sow from early spring to the end of August - mid-Augst in Zones 4 through 6, about every three weeks. Beets planted later, even if the roots don't get very large, are great for beet greens. Just cut a couple from each plant for your salads or stir fries.
- Carrots: Carrots can be sown every three weeks from as early as you can in the spring to mid-July for mature fall and winter carrots. Just leave them in the ground and pull them to eat fresh carrots when you want them. In climates with hard frost, pull your carrots after a couple of mild frosts. The hardiest variety is Scarlet Nantes.
- Parsnips: Sow as early as you can since parsnip seeds will germinate best in cold soil. Leave them in the ground and harvest as late as possible or in warm climates harvest all winter from the garden. They become so mush sweeter in the cold.
Tools to Help With Your Fall and Winter Garden
The best tool to use to extend your grwoing season is row cover - or remay. This can be simply laid over the vegetables, or used to cover a frame or hoops in order to create a growing tunnel - sort of like a mini-greenhouse.