By Lauren Howell
Tilth Alliance Communications Intern
Imagine stepping outside on a dark, crispy February evening, plucking a bowlful of tender Brussels sprouts right off your own plants and roasting them for a mouthwatering meal. A little planning and planting right now can pay off deliciously in just such a way! Here in the Maritime Northwest we can plant February through November and harvest year round. It’s not hard to do but requires keeping a step ahead of the seasons. Following are five questions to consider with information lifted from our Maritime Northwest Garden Guide that will help kickstart your fall and winter planning.
1. What will I grow?
Think of our fall as a second spring during which you can grow root crops, brassicas (broccoli, kale, cabbage), salad crops and peas. Sow quick-growing salad greens every few weeks to enjoy salad up to the first hard frost of November and beyond if our winter is mild or you use a protective cloche. You can also plant hardier crops for fall harvest that will keep growing slowly in your garden through our chilly, wet winter. Fava beans, garlic, purple sprouting broccoli, and hardy greens like kale, collards and Brussels sprouts don’t usually need the protection of a cloche. Many brassicas sweeten up after a frost, an added benefit.
2. When do I sow seeds?
Here’s a rough timetable for getting your fall plants off to a good start (keeping in mind that mother nature requires a flexible mindset):
- Early July: Sow the hardiest, slowest-growing crops for overwintering and early spring harvest.
- Late July-Late August: Sow leafy salad greens and other quick-growing crops for fall harvest.
- Late August-Early September: Sow leafy salad greens that will be protected by a cloche for harvest throughout the winter.
3. Where should I place my crops?
If your garden is overflowing and there’s no room to plant even a single radish, start your plants in containers or a nursery bed. You’ll buy time until summer crops are harvested and gain more control over your seeds’ germination environment. Placing a seed flat in partial shade or covering a nursery bed with shade cloth or floating row cover can ensure consistent moisture and lower soil temperature—especially critical if our record-breaking heat and drought returns. When transplanting starts, remember the concept of plant rotation: for a healthy and productive garden, replace spring-sown kale with something other than a fellow Brassicaceae.
4. How do I prepare the garden?
Loosen the soil where other plants have been harvested and get some compost to mulch around the plants when you set them out. For fertilizer, add worm castings or liquid fertilizer only. Too much nitrogen produces fast growth full of water, which makes plants more susceptible to frost damage. Use no fertilizer at all September through February. Come spring, you can top-dress the soil around your overwintered plants with a high-nitrogen organic fertilizer or composted manure to spur faster spring growth.
5. Where can I get more info?
Tilth Alliance has over 35 years of experience helping folks grow tasty and nourishing food. Get your questions answered by calling us at The Garden Hotline, consulting our Maritime Northwest Garden Guide or signing up for one of these upcoming classes:
- Start Your Fall and Winter Garden
- Fall and Winter Gardening in the PNW (FREE)
- Fall and Winter Gardening in Containers (FREE)