If you want to be able to pick lettuce, kale and other greens, broccoli florets and cabbages, and dig up beets, scallions or carrots in December and January, you have to plan now.
Winter gardening is a bit of a misnomer. You don’t actually garden in the winter – you harvest in the winter. Here on the coast, winter gardening means getting things started mid-summer so they are pretty well full grown by Hallowe’en, but will sit in the garden throughout the cool months without any cover, or perhaps a light floating row cover if the weather turns nasty. Linda Gilkeson, author of Year-Around Harvest and Backyard Bounty – two great books on year-round gardening on the BC Coast – tells us to think of our garden in winter like a big outdoor refrigerator in which you store veggies until you need them.
You don’t need a greenhouse or a coldframe to have a winter vegetable garden. Our winters generally are not cold enough to kill off hardy winter vegetables. So all you have to do is plan ahead and start planting cool weather crops now through to September.
The West Coast Seed Catalogue is a great place to start. Winter hardy vegetables are marked with a little symbol to identify which varieties do well over the winter in the coastal climate. Linda Gilkeson also sends out a regular newsletter full of great year-round gardening tips.
Broccoli, cauliflower and other members of the cabbage family should be started from seed in June, but if you missed getting them going, most nurseries have starts for sale in August.
In July, seed carrots, beets, rutabagas, radicchio, kohlrabi & leaf beet, and then in early August start lettuce, kale, Asian greens, spinach, mustards and onions. In late August, you can still seed corn salad, arugula, cilantro, and more winter lettuce.
If you miss the dates, the worst that can happen is your seedlings will be too small for much fall harvest, but they will start growing again next spring.
For more information, pick up our planting chart at any Dig This store, or get a copy of the West Coast Seeds Winter Gardening Guide, also available online.