Friday, January 30, 2015

Surely it's not fall already... or what to plant for your fall and winter garden

Another repost from the previous blog but good for every fall...

Of course not. But it is time to think about planting late summer vegetables. We generally have enough time to get in a quick round of some of the fast growing cool season crops before the soil chills too much and the frosts are too hard.

The Albuquerque Master Gardener's book, Down to Earth, is available online. Or at least the calendar is.

For August, they recommend planting vegetables like "lettuce, spinach, radishes, carrots, onions, broccoli, snow peas, and turnips for harvest before Christmas." And to think I just pulled out my last snow pea today. Guess I'll be starting over in short order!

As late as September, they suggest that you can put out arugula, chard, garlic, fava beans, and leeks as well as the vegetables listed for planting in August. Planting in September should get you an early spring harvest.

As I recall, some of our gardeners put out garlic even later.

If you're planting seeds for a harvest BEFORE it's too cold, check the seed packet for the days to germination and the days to maturity. Different varieties of the same vegetable may have quite different days to maturity.

According to the Master Gardener website, the official average first frost at the Sunport is on Halloween. As they go on to point out, the average is not the actual. Even if the temperatures dip for a night or two, our garden is relatively protected and you can cover plants for some protection.

So, if you wanted to grow a vegetable that germinated in a week and matured in 45 days, you'd want to plant about one and 3/4 months BEFORE 31 October or in early September. Planting too soon risks having your seedlings fry in a heat they don't like. On the other hand, plants being pretty smart about that sort of thing, you might find that even if you plant a bit early, the germination will be slow.

Planting vegetables in the fall to get a jump on spring gardening is very tempting. I should know. I now seem to have perennial collards in my row. And the gardeners of row 13, as I recall, had snow pea plants poking out of the ground in mid-January this year. How cool is that?

On the other hand, giving back to the soil by putting in a cover crop that can be cut and mulched in the spring is a good thing to do. As is simply giving your row a nice thick blanket of mulch and compost for the winter.

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