Overwintering Your Garden
Every gardener knows that harvest season is a magical time of year. Late summer crops are coming in by the bucketfuls, early fall vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower and potatoes are just coming on, and the summer heat has died down enough for cool-season greens. Yet this is also the time of year to start thinking about and planning next year’s garden.
Thanks to our mild and wet winters, there are many crops that do just fine overwintering. Alliums (garlic, onions), brassicas (broccoli, kale, cabbage), leafy greens, and some root vegetables can tolerate winter weather to get a jumpstart on spring.
The idea behind overwintering vegetable crops is to allow the plant to establish itself just enough to survive the winter. Vegetable transplants will use what’s left of the warm weather to grow sturdy. Once the wearer grows colder, the plants will stop growing, waiting out winter by relying on energy stores in their roots. With the coming of spring, you will be amazed at how much earlier your overwintered crops will start producing. Already hardened off, overwintered vegetables will be able to take full advantage of the spring rains and warmth when more delicate transplants can be stunted or even killed by the cool spring nights. Overwintering varieties of the following vegetables can be planted now
- Collard Greens
- Swiss Chard
- Salad greens
- Carrots (overwintering varieties)
Some crops, such as garlic, onions, beets, and swiss chard, prefer being “tucked in” with either straw or row cover. Additionally, cloche structures can help keep plants from getting too much water in the rainy season and can keep off heavy snow.
September is also the perfect time to plant perennials such as herbs, flowers, and shrubs. If you have beds in your garden that you intend to leave un-planted, consider planting an overwintering cover crop to prevent soil erosion and nutrient leeching. You can till in cover crops in early spring to add more organic matter to your soil composition, and certain cover crops will even fix nitrogen – a much needed nutrient.
So while you’re busy harvesting this season’s bounty and canning tomatoes, don’t forget about next year’s garden! You’ll be amazed at how a little work now can save you a lot of time later.