Do you think you missed getting a head start on your very own fall and winter garden? Do not fret – it is NOT too late to plant vegetable seeds. You can plant vegetables throughout fall and winter … allow me to give you the exciting scoop.
I know that when fall sneaks up, there is a general slow down after the summer rush. The lazy monster sets in and consumes all good efforts. It can be a real challenge to plant a fall garden when you feel worn out after a busy summer gardening season. We know we ought to get out there and clean out the summer plant stash, but we are just so reluctant to start … hanging onto sweet summer just a wee bit longer.
However, now is precisely the best time to plant your most wonderful garden yet!
- No crazy summer heat – that’s right – no sweat on your brow.
- Less upkeep – the bonus of all – no weeds that work on your nerves, tormenting as it did all summer! The weeds slowly getting their due punishment.
- The blessing of Magic food when it seems nothing is growing.
1. Start with planning
Wanting to plant vegetables throughout fall and winter is a great plan to have, but it does require some planning.
Some of you may have had good intentions and started planting fall seeds when you ‘should have’ during August, September or early October if you live in zone 8. To your surprise, you came to find cavities in your garden beds where critters have stashed their winter supply. While they now have their winter stock safely nested in your garden bed, you are out of luck with your own winter supply.
2. Planting vegetables throughout fall and winter
The good news is, you are not too late – it is still worthwhile to get going right now!
That’s right, there is a way for you to plant and harvest quick growing crops throughout the fall and winter season. You can plant quick growing vegetables like pak choi and lettuce throughout the fall and winter.
There is also time to plant and harvest longer growing crops. You however need to do a MacGyver a set-up to keep the seedlings “warmer” for longer into the cool winter weather. Creating clever devices to protect your plants from the first frost can pull them through until harvest. Giving them a little extra heat in the cool, frosty mornings will help mature the crops that need a little more time to bulk up.
Before you get planting, begin with some planning.
In order to have a good launch at your fall and winter garden, you should follow these steps BEFORE you being planting seeds:
- Determine your planting zone
- Find out when is your average first frost date
- Select seeds and note their time of maturity
- Prepare cover arrangements for plants to be protected from first frost
3. Determine your planting zone
Depending on which planting zone you are in, you should be able to stretch the season well into fall and winter. To find out which plant zone you are in, go to the handy Almanac website that shows the plant zones for the entire world on a map. For Canada, use this map – it is easier to read. The Almanac is a great resource for weather predictions, garden timing and astronomy tips.
For us in Canada, the plant zones span from Zone 0 in the north, Zones 2-6 in the east and most of inland Canada, and Zones 7-8 in the west. Our plant zone here in the western part of Vancouver, Canada is 8.
4. Find out when is your average first frost date
Once you know your plant zone, you can search for your average first frost date on the Almanac website.
Keep in mind that this is only a prediction. The website notes that frost dates is 33% likely to be on that exact date. So you can use the “average first frost date” as a guide, but you should prepare for frost before that date. If the frost comes after that date, then you can celebrate for the extra “warm” growth time for your seedlings.
Zone 8’s average first frost date is on 19 October.
5. Select vegetable seeds and note time for maturity
Below you will find a list of vegetables that you can plant in early fall. These vegetables have a shorter time to maturity. Maturity time is the days that it will take for the seeds to sprout and become a plant to the size where you can harvest it.
I listed the seeds in the order that will mature quickest to those taking longer.
Vegetable seeds to plant for a great fall harvest includes:
- Pak Choi
- Swiss Chard
The best seeds are bought from Baker Creek, a seed company in Missouri USA. They come highly recommended for their heirloom varieties. Heirloom means that a variety of a seed gets planted each year and preserved when the crop goes to seed (dies for the season). It has come to be that seeds from many, many years ago have been preserved in this way. These are still available in its true nature today. I love the integrity of having seeds passed down from many years past.
We will be planting the following varieties:
Extending your season
When seeds are covered after sowing, the season is extended long enough to harvest throughout the winter.
A list of vegetables that can be planted in fall, that takes a longer time to maturity, include:
These seeds have a medium too long maturity time, but can be planted for a winter harvest if the seeds are covered to extend its season.
We will be planting the following varieties of crops:
Plant plant plant!
You should check the back of your seed packet to determine the distance between sowing the seeds.
You can also do what I do … imagine the size of the crop (from pictures or past experience), and plant the seeds a little closer. That way the seedlings can be best buddies as they grow up together. Now, that could work out well and give you the benefit of conserving bed space. On the contrary, the spacing can be too close and be a bit clustered for the plants to fully mature. It’s a learning curve, but nothing detrimental happens in the process 🙂
Watch what we will plan
What if you really are too late?
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