Dark green veggies are in the wings awaiting winter performances. I feel like I should whisper it, winter. We don’t want to think about it in August, but it’s time to get hardy greens going.
A soothsayer would come in handy, someone to proclaim the most auspicious day for getting the little starts into the ground. It gets tricky. Plant too soon and if it’s a warm fall plants mature and flower before winter even arrives; plant too late and unexpected early cold can harm immature plants. Late July through August is usually about right, but as with all gardening the intrusion of unfavorable weather is possible. For example, we lost a bunch of newly transplanted starts during the recent heat wave, but still have plenty for ourselves and a few friends. Thanks Bob.
He started our plants from seed in late July – broccoli, chard, kale, Brussels sprouts and winter lettuce – then replanted them in fresh soil and a larger container when they reached about 3” and were getting crowded. We’ll transplant these seedlings into our garden plot in early September along with a crop of over-wintering beets.
Once they’re off to a good start little attention is required. They grow, produce their hardy leaves and stand strong through most PNW winters. The brassicas – kale, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts – will last through the winter and improve in flavor when exposed to frost. We’ll eat chard and kale leaves all winter long, and in late winter/early spring we’ll harvest their florets which are as good as the primary vegetable itself.
Brassicas (coles) improve with frost, but winter lettuce? Forget it. When it frosts, lettuce is done for. A trick: when frost is predicted we cover our lettuce plot with old wool blankets. It works. With luck and wool blankets a fall lettuce crop can often be enjoyed into December and longer.
The Seattle Tilth garden guide suggests sowing the following vegetables in July: beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chicory, endive, kale, rutabagas, scallions, collard, endive, and daikon radishes. In August: cilantro, endive, lettuce, swiss chard, turnips, cabbage for spring, corn salad, mustards, Walla Walla sweet onions. In September: cabbage, Chinese cabbage, lettuce (winter varieties), mustards, arugula, spinach.
Territorial Seed is an excellent resource. It’s difficult to remember to plant these guys in the midst of a July/August heat wave. If you want some but didn’t start seedlings in time, local Farmers Markets and garden nurseries usually have starts available which can be planted in September.
Seattle Tilth Harvest Fair on Saturday September 6th will be a good source for winter veggie starts. I called their Garden hotline, a real person answered – I love that! – and said there would be fall and winter vegetable starts available at the fair. Might be limited quantity so get there early.
The planting of winter greens is a seasonal ritual embedded in the earth’s constant transition. Poppy plans to discuss the unique character of late summer from another perspective which will be an interesting take on this particular time of year.
Questions about any of this? Please ask away – we’ve had a little experience with winter greens.