Make Way for Winter Veggies!

Imagine fresh, homegrown veggies all winter long! With the right summertime plantings, they’re yours for the picking. So pull out your pea plants, push aside your petunias or shrink your lawn to make way for winter vegetables. From root crops and cole crops to Mediterranean herbs, they’ll keep your grocery bills down and your dinners diverse. Carl Grimm, Metro natural gardening and toxics reduction specialist, shows us just how easy it is to grow fresh organic edibles for winter harvests.

 Prepare your soil for good drainage and healthy plants

Winter rains reduce watering needs, but be sure your soil drains well enough to keep roots from rotting. Add lots of compost to improve drainage and soil fertility. In heavy clay, consider adding some quarter-ten crushed rock. Raised or mounded beds with walking paths on each side are effective against soil compaction. To ensure adequate nutrients, work in a complete organic fertilizer before planting. Alfalfa meal pellets and kelp meal are Carl’s favorites. Just avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers as they can stimulate frost-tender growth.

 Plant root crops, cole crops and herbs

Carrots, beets and turnips can be sown now – in the ground or in containers. Cole crops, including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts, are also great. You can even plant herbs such as rosemary, marjoram, oregano and thyme right now. These hardy plants should mature before hard frosts come. The leafy crops will keep growing – however slowly – and you can snip the leaves throughout the winter. The root crop’s tops will likely die, but you can dig the roots up anytime.

 Some salad greens grow through winter, others need protection

Corn salad, a delicious green, is ready for planting in September. Also known as “mache,” the plant withstands hard frost. More tender lettuces and mixed salad greens can be planted now and through fall for salads into December. For tender picks through the dead of winter, however, remember to protect them with a floating row cover, cloche or cold frame.

 Fewer pests in winter

Fortunately, far fewer pests hang around for winter. You’ll find slugs and snails in fall, but they’re easily managed with a copper foil barrier, iron phosphate slug bait or a quick squish at night with a flashlight. No need for metaldehyde, which can be dangerous to pets and people. If you have a pest problem in your garden that you want to solve safely, give a call the Metro Recycling Information hotline.

 Winter vegetable gardening is a great way to make the most of your yard, keep food costs down, and enjoy healthy edibles throughout the cooler season.  And when you grow it yourself, you can be sure it’s organic!

 For more information, call Metro Recycling Information at 503-234-3000, or click here.

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