It is difficult to think about fall and winter crops when the tomatoes are just starting to ripen on the vine. Alas, that is the life of an urban farmer – always looking ahead to the coming season. It’s time to start plugging seeds in here and there to make sure we have good food to harvest through winter.
There are some tricks to working in fall crops without removing too much from the summer garden. One strategy is to replace something removed with something planted. For example, anytime I pull a beet I replace it with a beet seed. That way I’m staggering the planting for a continual harvest. Beets are an excellent, hardy choice for the fall and winter garden.
Selecting cultivars well-suited for over-wintering is key to year-round gardening. Carrot varieties like Napoli is a Nantes-type that is particularly well-suited for winter harvesting. Other good winter crop choices are Santee broccoli, Dolce Vita spinach, and Italian Rustic arugula.
Vegetables like kale, collard greens and swiss chard are staple crops we live off of during the darkest months of the year. We grow those in open beds. But another winter gardening strategy is to use row covers for the more tender plants, like lettuces. I use pvc pipes to hoop over our beds and secure greenhouse plastic over them. You’ll need to water them throughout the winter, but I can extend the fall harvest through winter in these warmer environments.
Other fall and winter crops to consider: cabbage, leeks, onions, cauliflower, rutabaga, turnips, brussel sprouts and parsnips. Your local garden shop should be a great resource for more winter gardening tips specific to your region.
What have you successfully harvested through the winter and what part of the country do you live in? We have milder winters here in Portland, but I love hearing strategies from really cold-weather gardeners!