Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Next Winter's Garden

We haven't even got this spring garden planted yet but it is time to think already about next winter. Since winter is one of the most productive times in Northwest gardens, it is worth some planning.

So what are good winter crops? Greens: kale and arugula, brassicas: Brussel Sprouts and Broccoli, root crops like turnips, carrots, parsnips.

Plan to start these crops from seed in June for winter harvest. You can make a nursery bed for starting the greens and brassicas. Then transplant to appropriate spacing when the plants are 2-3 inches high. You should be able to harvest fresh vegetables all winter long. When these plants mature during the winter months they are much slower to bolt (go to seed), which means that you can stretch out the harvest much longer.

Root crops like carrots and parsnips can be left in the ground in this climate and dug as needed through the winter. In the case of StarBird Farm with our high winter water tables, be sure to mound up the soil at least 8 inches above nominal ground level to ensure good drainage come winter.

(Don't leave potatoes in the ground. They have a much greater tendancy to rot.)

Of course, there is always the possibility of fall flooding in the Snohomish valley which could completely wipe out winter gardens. A good farmer provides him or herself with as many alternatives as reasonable. For that reason, also plan to freeze at least broccoli from your summer garden for winter eating. If we're lucky, and you have planned ahead, you may have fresh broccoli to eat and the frozen broccoli can be made into soup.

Brussel sprouts require a long, cool growing season. Don't be too quick about getting them planted this spring. If you plant seed in June, you should be able to harvest by Thanksgiving and then all winter.

Hey, with a large garden and realtively inexpensive seeds you should be able to grow a lot of fresh winter vegetables.

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