Planting for fall & winter harvests has to start in the summer and fall. Just like we sow summer harvest crops in the late winter and spring – it’s the same concept. Did you know that many crops can be harvested from the garden fresh, even after the end of summer? Root crops like carrots and beets, and leafy greens like kale and scallions, even lettuce!
View the West Coast Seeds Fall & Winter Gardening Guide here.
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In our mild coastal climate we can grow some vegetables all winter without protection. You can eat these plants throughout the winter, so they need to be full size by about Halloween. Until Valentines Day, plants grow very slowly and do not re-grow after harvest as they might in the summer. The greatest challenges are low light levels, abundant rain, and temperature swings. Here on the west coast our winters are so mild that nearly anyone living west of the Cascades in Washington and Oregon can enjoy winter gardening. In BC, pretty much anyone from Vancouver up to the Sunshine Coast, on the east side of Vancouver Island, and on most of the Gulf Islands can do the same.
Winter gardening is about harvesting crops all winter that were planted in the summer and fall. Slow growing crops like Brassicas need a longer time to mature than really speedy crops like arugula and radishes.
Among the many seeds for growing food at home, a handful are absolutely require overwintering. This means that the seeds are planted in the summer, and grown out to a large but immature size for the fall. They need the long, cold, resting period of winter in order to trigger blooming, and they are ready to harvest and eat the following spring. A good example of this is Walla Walla Onion, which simply will not produce a bulb until the spring after it was planted.
So whether you want to harvest these crops in the fall, the winter, or the following spring, they all need to be planned and planted in the summer months. With some planning, overwintered crops can be combined with winter gardening and regular spring/summer gardening to provide fresh vegetables all 12 months of the year.