Time to think about putting the garden to bed. The days are getting shorter and cooler and fall is the time to start dreaming of sleepy evenings by the fire and hot chocolate – right?
Not….so…..fast. Where I live in the U.S. zone 7b and 8a are getting ready to rock n’ roll in the garden.
Did you know that THE best time to plant carrots is NOW? Carrots grown and harvested in cold/cooler weather will be sweet whereas carrots grown and harvested in our sweltering hot spring and summer will be spit-it-out bitter. More root crops that LOVE cold weather (or at least our version of cold weather) are turnips, rutabagas, some potatoes and radishes. I have grown some Daikon radishes that were hot enough to hurt your feelings. Onions can be planted to harvest the green tops all winter long – so good in soups and salads.
Greens, greens, greens! I love to juice my vegetables and it is my winter garden that keeps me loaded with greens all winter long. Spinach, Bok Choi, Tat Soi, cabbage, lettuce and more. Oh – Kale – how could I forget Kale? For my raw foodie friends, the Kale chips that you make from Kale out of your own garden taste soooo much better and they are a LOT cheaper too. Mustard is my workhorse; love to saute it lightly and have it with eggs, or mince into cassaroles. In the spring , after giving me a bounty of greens all winter, it sprays the garden with yellow gold flowers, feeding the bees, and then, finally, the seed pods containing next winters crop.
In my area we do get some frosts here and there and some hard freezes. Most of the plants listed so far actually benefit from this but my tender lettuces I like to keep protected during a hard freeze. A blanket or plastic cover could work; I’ve seen some neat arrangements where straw bales are a used as walls around a small bed and a window is laid on top for a little mini greenhouse.
The three veggies that, I’m told, are the very best when grown in fall and winter in the south are Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Brussels Sprouts. I would LOVE to be successful at growing these but there are always little friends in the garden that want them more than I do. I don’t use any type of pesticide and, I’m told, that there is less damage from insects to these plants when grown in the winter. So if you have any a chemical free tips on growing these plants I sure would love to hear them.
And last but not least is my favorite food of all ----- Garlic. I am mighty proud of my Garlic. It is only planted during the last part of September or the first part of October when the moon is just right. The ‘real’ garlic and the elephant garlic are kept in separate beds as sometimes my ‘real’ garlic can get so big I almost can’t tell it from the elephant garlic. It is NEVER given supplemental watering. The very best (that means so-strong-you-can-see-the-fumes) garlic is mulched heavily to retain moisture and suppress weeds but is only watered by Mother Nature. I plant winter rye for my birds to munch on and I also mow it and pile green grass clippings around the base of all of the garlic plants two to three times over the winter.
Oh, I could just go on and on and on! I keep thinking of more winter plants for those of us who shovel sunshine in the winter – but the bottom line is this: It’s time to WAKE UP in the garden, succession planting every couple of weeks – or even every week – should give you some tasty young plants to harvest all winter long.
For a lively discussion about winter gardening and lots of other neat growing stuff check out this thread at Permies.com :