With summer in full swing I am already planning for winter and for next spring at the garden centre, putting final numbers together for Christmas trees, booking my roses and rhodos for next year and guessing as to how many trowels and rakes you’ll buy.
And there’s no reason you shouldn’t be planning, too! While you harvest the vegetables from your garden this summer you should be planting cold tolerant veggies for fall and early spring harvest. While it may be getting late for direct sowing or starting seeds for a lot of the winter crops, don’t worry, we’re getting the first of the veggie packs in at Cultivate, all ready for planting.
Cold weather crops include vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, lettuce, leeks, Swiss chard, garlic and yes, the much loved Brussels sprouts. Why they invented Brussels sprouts I’ll never know. Growing up my dad has tried to get me to indulge in these mini cabbage-like things and always has a comment about how home grown are night and day difference in taste from grocery store ones. Yeah, Dad, I’m happy without them in my life, thanks, but you go right ahead.
For some of these veg you’ll be able to enjoy a fall crop and for others the plants will grow and then sit dormant through the winter. Once the weather warms up again in the spring they’re ready to go and will give you a nice early harvest.
One of my favourites is purple sprouting broccoli. It doesn’t form a big head but rather mostly smaller ones that you can snip off and enjoy in a salad. They’re also the perfect size for popping in your mouth. Broccoli can be one of those vegetables that can be embarrassing to eat at a party when the pieces aren’t cut up to little mouth sized bites, especially when there’s dip involved.
Another good one is leeks. If you planted leeks in the spring then leave a few in through the winter to harvest anytime. There’s nothing like providing something for dinner, freshly picked from the garden in the middle of winter. Plant more now to have an early harvest next year.
Spinach, kale and Swiss chard are very popular winter vegetables. If planting by seed, sow spinach in 2 week intervals in case the weather stays hot well into the school year. Same goes with lettuce. Plant some containers up with these leafy greens so that you can move them close to the back door for easy access when the weather isn’t so nice or into a cooler spot if the temperatures are too hot.
Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ makes not only a delicious meal but a wonderful fall container plant with its colourful stems. Pop it in with heathers, heucheras, pansies, mums, etc. and harvest as needed. Make a moss basket with different types of lettuce. It keeps it out of reach of slugs and looks great, too.
Cabbage and cauliflower can also be planted now along with perennial herbs such as parsley. Garlic should be planted in October so wait until the seed garlic is available in the fall.
It’s getting a bit late for a lot of these to be started from seed. The trick is guessing when the first expected frost date is and working backwards as to how long the growing season is for that particular crop. The idea is to get the plant to a decent size before the cold temperatures stop it growing or to be able to harvest it before the frost hits. The cold tolerant ones like broccoli sit dormant waiting for some warm spring weather to get started again.
So if you missed the boat on sowing the seeds don’t worry, that’s why we have vegetable packs available now at the garden centre. We’ve done the planning for you while you basked poolside or paddled in the ocean. So as you pick the last of your peppers and pull out the dried up pea plants you should be planning how to make that square footage work for you through the cooler months.