Q. Am I too late to plant fall food crops?
A. Not at all. We are fortunate to live a place that allows us to plant many things that will produce vegetables and herbs into the winter and beyond. While it is not the right time to plant some things like tomatoes or peppers, you can plan for many things that will bring you lots of things that you can enjoy throughout the coming months. The most commonly successful are winter greens like Kale, Cabbage, Chard, Spinach or Beet Greens. Planting starts of these vegetables right now will provide you with plenty of greens that you can use in salads, soups, stir-fry dishes and more. And don’t forget herbs! Many herbs are winter hardy and can be harvested all year long once established. If you have a protected sunny area you might even be able to get a short crop of lettuce in and harvested before the cold of winter arrives. It is also a good time to plant garlic and onion sets. These plants will grow throughout the winter and will be ready to harvest late next spring or early summer.
If you choose not to grow any actual food crops this winter, now would be the time to plant a cover crop in your vegetable garden. This planting will help add nutrients to the soil and will also protect is from the compacting rains of the winter so your soil will be in much better shape next spring when it is time to plant your summer growing crops.
There are also some things that you may have growing in your garden right now that you may not realize can stay in the ground and remain productive all winter (and into the spring if the weather cooperates!) Planting Broccoli and Kale with sufficient room for each plant will allow you to continue to harvest as each plant grows. Last year I was harvesting broccoli until the cold and snow of February arrived. Kale can remain productive not just for the winter but maybe even well into the next summer with a somewhat mild winter. One nice thing about winter gardening is that you probably won’t have to water very often!
-Chuck Flaherty, Magnolia Garden Center Owner
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