I feel like I should whisper it . . . winter. It’s summer, but dark green veggies are in the wings awaiting winter performances. The planting of winter greens is a seasonal ritual embedded in the earth’s constant transition. Living and eating along with the seasons should be, probably is, part of our genetic construction, but we don’t like to think about it in August. It’s not about survival anymore, but a leaning toward living more sustainably.
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, unexpectedly hot or cool.
Last weekend we planted arugula, spinach and mesclun seeds directly in the ground for fall crops; we’ll get broccoli, chard and rutabaga starts going right away and transplant them in a few weeks; our friend John has kale starts and will share with us – Siberian kale is our main winter garden vegetable; planted in early spring, brussels sprouts are well on their way and will be ready for harvest in November; winter’s lettuce crops will be sown in September along with a crop of over-wintering beets; we should have started cauliflower in July and hope to find starts at the Tilth Harvest Fair on September 8th.
Seattle Celebrates Local Food and Urban Farming at 25th Annual Harvest Fair
Where else can you press apples into cider and learn to make cheese while listening to live music outdoors? Seattle Tilth’s Harvest Fair invites you to do all that and more at Seattle’s local food and urban farming festival! The 25th annual Harvest Fair is on Saturday, September 8, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Meridian Park.
Seattle Tilth’s Harvest Fair
Saturday, September 8
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
4649 Sunnyside Ave
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 harvest their florets which are as good as the primary vegetable itself. Rutabagas are a treat, usually ready December/January.
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 for seed and garden paraphernalia.
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 8th will be a good source for winter veggie starts. Call their Garden hotline and a real person answers, love that. Might be limited quantities of some starts, so get there early.
Kale and chard both survived last year’s snowy cold snap, the kale more readily than the chard which took 6 or 8 weeks to recover and grow new leaves.
If you plant just one winter green, I would say go with kale, one of three vegetables my centenarian grandmother grew after she’d finally given up her large garden (the other two, tomatoes and zucchini). It’s easy, hardy through winter, and provides healthy fare for the table. It can be added by the handful to many dishes, soups, eggs, rice, risotto, pasta. That, along with bowls of steamed kale with garlic, vinegar and maybe bacon, could keep you glowing all winter long.
Living Within the Seasons is an updated post from August 2009.
§ Raffle to win a chicken coop, beekeeping starter kit or year’s supply of Organic Valley milk
§ Seed swap
§ Cider pressing
§ Urban livestock area
§ DIY herb crowns
§ Barter hosted by Backyard Barter (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)
§ Kids crafts in the children’s garden
§ Organic farmer’s market
§ Sustainable vendors
§ Kids’ parade
§ Live music from Slap and Tickle, Mostly Water, Creepin’ Critters, Holy Crows, Bucharest Drinking Team and Nyamuziwa Marimba