There's Still Time to Plant a Winter Garden

It's the right time of year to grow onions, kale, broccoli, spinach, garlic and more.

It may not seem like the primo time to grow a garden as everyone bracing for winter rainstorms this week, but this is actually the end of the fall/winter garden planting season.

Some vegetables actually grow better in the winter—think big leafy greens that may get scorched in the summer sun and hardy vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli that can mature but not bolt thanks to cooler temperatures.

It's too late to plant seeds, though. They just won't take off fast enough to produce before you want to plant your spring garden. Instead, stop by your local garden store to pick up what's left of their starts (onion, kale, broccoli, spinach and cauliflower). Here are more winter garden veggie ideas.

Garlic should also be planted now. Tiny, bright green shoots will pop out of the ground within a couple weeks, but the garlic will need until June to mature. Then you can harvest the entire crop, braid the garlic and dry it. It's OK to plant cloves from the kitchen, but a fresh package from a garden supply store will let you know what variety of garlic you're growing.

If all of that sounds like too much work, just plant a cover crop. Fava beans and sweet peas will sprout quickly. These crops can actually improve the quality of the soil in your garden during the off-season by fixing nitrogen into the dirt. Another bonus? A cover crop prevents topsoil runoff when those heavy rains hit. Let the beans and peas go it's time to plant a spring garden. Then just mulch the plants into the soil and plant. (Maybe pick a few fava beans first and make a tasty pasta dish with them.)

It's also the right time of year to get some fruits and flowers in the ground that need a little time to come on. Bareroot berries are a good example of this. Plant strawberries and raspberries now to get sweet fruit treats next summer.

Spring-blooming bulbs also should go in the ground before Christmas. In five or six months, these flowers will be some of the first spots of color in your yard or garden.

There are lots of flowers to choose from. Tulips and crocuses are classics. Treehugger.com has some other recommendations (and photos of the flowers) here. Daffodils, with their golden yellow flowers, are great—especially if you have a gopher problem. Gophers won't eat these bubs or the root system. Here is a quick step-by-step guide on where and now to plant daffodil bulbs.

Have you started a winter garden? What are you growing? Tell us in comments.

Doreen Anderson November 29, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Hi Jennifer--We're wondering if you are writing about gardening in Enumclaw. We're gardeners, too, and we agree it's time to get your garlic planted if you didn't do it in October or earlier this month. We just put some in very late. But we don't think it's going to be sending up little green shoots in TWO WEEKS here, and it won't be ready in June. More like third week in July. Our kale planted last summer and fully mature will hold up pretty well throughout the winter, but we just don't think new starts planted now would grow much in these coldest months, if we could even find some. Same for broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, unless we were planting in a greenhouse. If you do get these to grow here, let us know how! Also, If John plants cover crops, it's usually in September. It's awfully cold for sprouting now. I notice your link for "other veggie ideas" is for CALIFORNIA winter gardens, so maybe that explains the difference in timing. The Pacific Northwest is much cooler. Anyhow, thanks for bringing up the subject of winter gardening. It certainly can provide some healthy eating for the winter months. For locals who would like to start a winter garden (maybe next year), there is a really good planting chart on Westside Gardener http://westsidegardener.com/quick/winter_veggies.html The site's author lives in Sumner, where conditions are quite similar to Enumclaw--we might be just a bit cooler up the hill, but it's a pretty close match.


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