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Keep Growing: Fall & Winter Gardening

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

It's finally summer in the PNW and your gardens are most likely in full growing mode and you're enjoying the fruits of your labor, literally! If you've planted succession crops you may be harvesting things like spring planted brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, broccoli), carrots, and garlic and you now have some open growing space. It's time to plant your fall and overwintering crops!

Prepare your garden beds:

  • Get a soil test! (check with your local conservation district - see resources below). Fall or Spring is a great time to test your soil to see what nutrients your crops need. Read more here

Why test your soil? If you are unsure what nutrients your soil needs - prior to adding nutrients that could run off and contaminate ground water and local streams

  • Cut plants out at soil level, leaving roots. Larger brassica plants can be pulled up and cut so that only the smallest roots remain in the soil.

  • Add 1/2" to 1" of fresh compost to surface

  • Direct seed fall crops or, if transplanting, let soil rest for a week to allow time for soil organisms to break down roots of the last crop

person taking a soil sample
Soil Testing is easy and helps you determine what your soil needs
First Frost Date: Check your average first frost date and be sure these crops will have time to mature or get established before your first freeze.

What to in plant for Fall harvest:
  • Peas - snap & snow varieties*

  • Brassicas (short season)

Brassicas include: Kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi. Check "days to harvest" to make sure that these crops will be fall harvest (short season) or overwintering.

  • Onions - bunching and green onions

  • Carrots*

  • Lettuces* (summer or bolt resistant varieties)

  • Radicchio*

  • Beets*

  • Celery

  • Swiss chard

What to plant in mid to late August/September for over-wintering:
  • Brassicas: long season ~120 days (the cabbage in the photo above was harvesting in early spring)

  • Onions - overwintering types like Walla Walla

  • Carrots* (germination is best when soil temps are over 50 degrees)

  • Parsnip* (germination temps same as carrots)

What to plant in September:
  • Radish*

  • Turnip*

  • Lettuce*

  • Spinach*

  • Bok choi, Asian greens*

  • Cilantro*

  • Cover crops*

  • Garlic (in October)

*Direct seed only – typical of root crops that don’t like their roots disturbed. Sowing seeds directly into the garden into prepared soil is called direct seeding. Some crops do best when seeded directly into the garden, versus getting transplanted, including all root crops.

Succession Planting: Staggering the timing of seeding a crop by at least a couple of weeks will allow for prolonged harvests of your favorite crops!

Crops that work well for succession plantings:

  • Lettuce (choose different varieties and colors)

  • Spinach

  • Bok choi

  • Radish

  • Cilantro (bolts quickly)

  • Carrots (at least two successions) - they hold in the soil during the colder months so not as important for over wintered crops

Fertilizing

Planting fall crops after your summer crops requires that you add some nutrients back into the soil. Compost has most of the nutrients your plants need, so top dressing with fresh compost (as mentioned above) between crops is an important step.


Remember: Test your soil (see resources) to be sure you know what nutrients your soil needs before you add anything. I recommend testing soil the first year and then again the next year and every few years after that. That way you will learn what your soil needs or doesn't need.

bag of garden fertilizer
Example of an organic, granular fertilizer brand

Here's what I use for fertilizing:

  • Organic all-purpose vegetable fertilizer such as Dr. Earth or EB Stone - add a handful in the planting hole for brassicas

  • Quick crops like lettuce, spinach, etc. are good with just the new compost

  • Water in transplants with Alaska Fish Fertilizer (liquid) - use as directed

Crop Rotation:

Another consideration when it comes to soil fertility is to rotate your crops. Plant families tend to need the same soil nutrients and have the same pests. For example, not seeding carrots or another root crop where you just harvested your carrots from. A simple way to think about what to plant next is to remember:

  1. Leaf (brassicas, lettuce, spinach)

  2. Fruit (tomatoes, cucumbers, squash)

  3. Root (carrot, beets, parsnips)

  4. Shoot/Flower (peas, beans, onions)

If you just harvested a root crop then you can plant "shoot/flower" crop or any of the other types of crops (fruit, shoot, leaf) besides a root crop. Crops in the same family or in the same group (root crops) use the same nutrients, so your soil will be depleted of root crop nutrients. Planting peas or beans after root crops gives the soil a chance to recover those nutrient levels while peas and beans (legumes) use different nutrients and actually partner with soil organisms to make their own nitrogen!

Season Extension: Use row cover fabric (link in resources below) to cover fall crops and protect from light frosts.
Helpful Resources

Garden Starts:

I grow a wide variety of garden starts and edible plants using all organic and local seeds and soil. Check out the Growing Roots Together online store to order. Free delivery to Lynnwood area or pick up in Lynnwood.


Seeds:

Buy organic seed from local growers to ensure the plant varieties grow well here. Some of my favorites are: Territorial Seed Co, Adaptive Seeds, Uprising Seeds, and Strictly Medicinal.


Soil Testing:

Learn more about soil testing and find helpful resources here.


Compost:

Cedar Grove Organics (also available as bagged and bulk at Sky Nursery, Shoreline)


Row Cover Fabric:

Local nursery or online - can be loosely placed directly over plants and soil, hold down with rocks or soil at edges


Plant Enough to Share

Remember to always plant enough to share. Plan for some losses (twenty-five percent or so) due to pests, plant health, etc. and also plan to plant some to share with your neighbors or local food bank.


Please contact Marni with any questions or for more information about garden consulting or coaching.


Happy fall and winter gardening!



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