Fall plantings can help you eat from the garden through fall/winter and into early next spring. How much you plant and when you plant it can make a difference.
For the most success:
stagger plantings of the same crop several weeks apart. This can make a big difference in how long you enjoy eating from your fall/winter garden.
Fall Plantings of Lettuce
As mentioned in other posts I plant lettuce at least 4 times from September through November to insure a steady supply into next spring.
The seedlings of Winter Density started in September (my seed from 2017) will be the first I’ll enjoy this fall. Most of that planting will either be gone or look pretty shabby by next spring.
Started more Winter Density at the end of September. (Used this year’s saved seed. It germinated in two days!)
Planted several new varieties of lettuce. (Every year I hope to find another favorite.) Germination was poor in EVERY ONE of the new varieties.
In spite of the poor germination, at least a few plants from that first planting will make it. Around mid or late October I’ll start more of all the varieties again.
But to date Winter Density ( good for all seasons) and Sierra Batavia (especially good for spring and early summer) outperforms all the many lettuces I’ve grown over the years.
Honorable mention goes to Reine des Glaces because it’s so delicious especially when coupled with Winter Density and Sierra Batavia in a salad in spring and early summer.
Black Seeded Simpson gets a nod only because it’s dependable for a long period of time into summer when you may not have any other lettuces.
As usual it looks like the bulk of my winter lettuce will be Winter Density.
First planting of parsley didn’t germinate. Seed was too old or maybe not kept in the best of conditions. (Mine from 2012). Just planted some yesterday that I harvested this season. Hoping for good germination.
Although parsley performs a bit better in spring plantings, it’s worth getting a few started for winter. They don’t get really large in cold weather. But in addition to giving me a taste of parsley in winter, they also serve as an early start for parsley when they “take off” in the spring.
Planted seed harvested this season. Didn’t germinate. That was disappointing because it came from some of the best looking chard I’ve ever grown.
Will plant again tomorrow.
Mache is a must have. So delicious and needs no protection from the cold.
If you do give it some protection in the cold it’ll grow more.
I allow it to self-sow in my garden each spring. But I still sow some new seed here and there each fall just in case.
The self-sown usually shows up in my garden about mid November or later.
Planted Sept 21 and came up in 4 days! Can hardly wait to start adding them to my daily fare of veggies.
A few white icicle radishes given to me by a friend were planted yesterday (Oct 7th). They’re new to me and I’m excited to see how they do.
I’d need more room than I have to grow the amount of carrots I use.
There’s another reason I don’t grow many. I’ve never grown any that I thought tasted good. Am still trying.
Last spring I planted carrots 3 times and none of them germinated. Seed was newly purchased. (Having trouble with germination of purchased seed is getting worse each year. Makes saving our own even more important.)
Probably a bit late to plant carrots, but I planted anyway on Sept. 21. Only one has germinated.
The variety (Blanka) is new for me.
We’ll see what happens.
Fall Plantings of Cabbage are New for me This Year
Growing cabbage this fall has me more excited than I’ve been about growing anything in a long time. Several reasons account for that:
# 1 – Raw cabbage (along with carrots) is a big percentage of my diet. With all that’s going on in this country and with so many indications of food shortages soon becoming more severe, I’d hate to be without either of those two vegetables.
#2 – Cabbages like cool temperatures and cabbage pests don’t.
#3 – I’m growing four varieties:
(a) January King variety is new for me. It’s a winter cabbage which has been cultivated in England since 1867. Leaves are blue green blushed with purple or red. The heads are said to be small at 3 to 5 lbs. I like smaller heads but 5 lbs sounds big to me. Anxious to see for myself.
It’s said to survive hard freezes without cover. Another “Yeh!”
Less work for me.
(b) Early Jersey seedlings look good.
Planted eight seedlings in the garden and six are doing good. Have backups still in the pot to transplant tomorrow. (picture below)
(c) Columbia – They’re the ones that did so well for me this summer and were so delicious. (See picture below.)
Seedlings look puny, but that’s exactly how they looked in the spring. It took a month for them to really start to flourish.
Note: Keep in mind, that’s why Miracle Grow is so popular with conventional gardeners. It gives quick growth. That’s not always the way of nature — but most gardeners think it’s grand and don’t give any thought to the harm it does.
Over my 42 years of gardening, I’ve found in an organic garden that works with nature, seedlings might take longer to get started, but they usually go a lot longer, produce a lot more, and are healthier overall.
(d) Volunteer seed from a store bought organic cabbage that I dug into a bed with other kitchen scraps last winter:
I’ve been disappointed with how the seedlings look. But you never can tell.
IMPORTANT CONCEPT: Seldom can you go by how things look at any given time in the growth process especially if you’ve never grown the variety, or grown at this time, or had experience with the particular vegetable.
Planted twelve of these seedlings on the other side of the garden from the Early Jersey variety.
Eight made it. Only two look fair. Something is eating the others.
Have never grown broccoli in fall/winter before.
Wakefield is the variety I chose.
Will plant some time this month or early to mid November.
Am closing down part of a flower border. Had tight rolls of weeds decaying in this area during the early summer. (You’ll recall my private letter to subscribers entitled – Don’t Waste Your Weeds.)
As a result the soil is so nice that I decided to plant my garlic here rather than close the border.
After planting I’ll mulch with straw. When the leaves fall I’ll add some on top for more nutrition/organic matter.
If you’ve never gardened in the fall for winter and next spring, you’re missing something special.
Started your fall garden? I’d love to know what you’re growing.
Wishing you an abundant fall/winter and spring harvest!
Mache – Why Grow It and Secrets to Having Enough
Growing Garlic – When to Plant and Why
Still Eating Lettuces from Your Garden in January – or Not?
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I got carrots going this year for the first time by using the board method. I planted the seeds then watered (sprinkled) gently and put a board on top until they germinated. I made sure the soil under the board didn’t dry out; if there was no rain for a few days I’d water around the board. Carrot sprouts are so small they can get washed away. After I could see tiny hairs of carrot leaf, I raised the board up half an inch (just using a stick at each end) until they were stronger. I didn’t expose them to full sun and rain until they were well enough established.
Thanks Heather for taking time to write this method.
Ruth Stout started her carrots the same way back when.
As long as I’ve know about this method — I’ve never done it. Maybe it’s time for me to get smart and take action.
Carrots had always been a tough crop for me to grow and get any yield from…until two years ago when I tried something a bit different.
Now I dig a small furrow with a V-shaped tool, probably less than two inches deep. Next sprinkle some generic potting mix into the groove, then the seed on top followed with another sprinkle of mix to cover the seeds.
They’re up in a short time…once about two inches tall I thin seedlings leaving a couple inches between plants. Keep the soil moist throughout this period.
I’ve never had such wonderful harvests, and once again I give credit to Theresa who has often said Think Outside The Box, Try Something Different, Take Another Approach, and don’t get stuck in the same habits & patterns. Might not be everyone’s solution but it works for me 🙂
I too have used the board method each time I plant carrots (did not plant any this year), but the only time I have had good germination was when I used the board method. Learned about this method from Ruth Stout also.
Thank you so much for this post! I would love to master a fall garden. For some reason I don’t seem to get my timing right! Last year I waited too late to plant, this year I planted my lettuce too early and they bolted.
I planted my broccoli and cauliflower a little too early but they might make it despite my bumbling. Carrots did fantastic for me last year but they are struggling this year. “Just keep trying” is my motto ☺️
Hi Theresa, I also wanted to say thank you for this post, it gives me lots of ‘food for thoughts’!
I’m working on getting my timings (and my rotation planning) right too. I struggle to have always enough available in between seasons, especially greens. I keep being ‘saved’ by volunteers, but I’d like not to rely on them too much in the future.
I find the pictures of your seedlings in the pots very useful (and they all look so healthy)!
Am I right thinking you don’t really thin your lettuce seedlings? I’m looking at the image “Winter Density seedlings ready for second fall planting”: it seems you just leave them growing in the pot as they come up until they are ready to be transplanted in the garden? I read somewhere they needed 2cm between each other as soon as they come up.. would be good not having to worry about this as I’m not a very good ‘sprinkler’ of small seeds… !
Thank you also for sharing how many seedlings you lost after transplanting. It’s something that gets me very frustrated… It’s good to know that’s just what happens – and that’s why backups are so important!
PS: we are getting some rain this week!
I hadn’t realized that carrots have been a tough crop for you to grow. You’ve sent me pictures in the past and your carrots are beautiful.
The way you’re starting them is very appealing to me and I think I’ll try it. (I may as well try the board method while I’m at it.)
If I can grow carrots like yours I’ll be thrilled!
Thanks so much for posting this.
Good knowing that you too have been successful with the board method! Appreciate your taking time to post. I think this will help a lot of people.
Especially nice they’ll have two methods to try for getting carrots up and started.
Thanks for taking time to post Alice.
I agree — that’s what we have to do — keep trying. There are always so many variables we can’t pinpoint. But one thing’s for sure — if we don’t keep planting, we won’t harvest.
Regarding lettuce — that’s not unusual for lettuce planted in August or even September to bolt when temperatures remain high.
No one can really forecast the weather 100%. Thus, the best way to get lettuce from fall into spring is to plant at least 3 or 4 times beginning at summer’s end and into November.
So glad you found this post helpful.
I too have been “saved” many times by volunteers! So I relate.
I try having parsley and garden sorrel around all the time to fill in.
Tonight with my chopped vegetables I ran out and picked a bowl of sorrel and few leaves of volunteer Russian Kale since lettuce is not big enough to harvest yet.
I don’t bother with thinning lettuce seedlings when first starting them. I can separate them when transplanting.
Don’t pay too much attention to what is said about space between lettuce — especially when you’re getting it started.
2 cm is about 3/4 of an inch; And as you can see in picture — I just scatter the seed on the surface and don’t pay attention to spacing.
When transplanting space is about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart.
I’ve seen some sources say to transplant 6 inches apart. I never do that. Guess if someone was growing head lettuce for sale and they wanted to harvest large heads of lettuce for market they could plant this far apart. Otherwise, I see no reason to do it.
Regarding loss of seed —it gets worse every year with seed you buy. My best seed is the seed I save myself.
And yes — you’ve discovered one of the great secrets to success — backups!!
Great you’re getting that rain!
Thanks for taking time to add to the post.
I’ve always had terrible luck getting carrots to germinate in the summer for fall/winter crops, until I finally tried that old trick of planting with radishes to ‘mark the rows’. I’m not much of a radish eater so I’d never bothered to try that, until this year because my husband asked me to grow radishes. Voila! Best germination ever! Also, the slugs used to eat my carrot seedlings, but now I think they go to the radishes first. I don’t care!
I like Winter Density lettuce, and I also have great success with Rouge D’Hiver lettuce and Buttercrunch, which is my favorite and which I keep alive all winter until it takes off in the spring.
I’ve never had much luck with fall and overwintered broccoli. I think I just haven’t got the timing right.
I love looking at your photos. Thank you!
Thanks for this Mary Kate! Now all of us who are having problems getting carrots started will have 3 options to try!
Glad you noted your favorite lettuces as well.
I’m hoping fall/winter broccoli will do ok for me but we’ll see. My timing may have been off as well.
Again — thanks for posting. It should be helpful to many (including me).
Thank you for these suggestions – especially on the varieties that have worked for you. Fantastic!
I thought I had another question related to this post but now I realised it’s not really… anyway, I’m going to add it here because I think it relates to the ‘change of season crop’ topic.
When you clear a bed after a crop finishes, can you leave the roots in to decompose even if towards the end of the season the plant got a disease like rust (I’m thinking of broadbeans) or powdery mildew (i.e. curcubits, tomatoes, peas..) or any other ‘mold’? I know you need to get rid of the plant and not compost it, but I’m wondering whether taking out the roots does more bad than good for the soil?
I hope it makes sense.
Giulia, I don’t know what a scientist would say. Conventional “wisdom” would probably say take out the entire plant.
So I would NOT recommend anyone do what I do, but here are my thoughts and experiences:
If this happened in my garden, I would evaluate each situation on it’s own merit.
Powdery mildew would not bother me. I would leave the entire plant in the garden. My thinking is that powdery mildew requires certain conditions to exist. If those conditions are not present neither is the mildew.
Cucumbers are very prone to mildew. I’ve always cut and dropped the residue on the bed. Left the roots in. If conditions are just right cukes get mildew. Other years they don’t.
Aster and phlox are prone to mildew. For years I’ve cut and dropped dead foliage in the winter. If conditions are right next season – mildew appears. This year there wasn’t a speck of mildew on aster or phlox anywhere over this acre of ground.
Tomatoes here are very prone to early blight. I always cut and drop dead foliage, leaving the roots.
This year some of the tomato foliage showed signs of early blight. Conditions changed. Now the foliage looks great. (Late blight is a different story. I’ve never had that, but it’s something that should be removed from the garden and trashed.)
Beans can get mildew. Mine have not had it for years even when they’re next to cucumbers that have mildew.
The main purpose of leaving roots in the soil is to give soil life a place to live during the off season. And of course, when they decay they add organic matter.
Something like white rot or pink rot in onions or other alliums are the only things I can think of right this minute that I would definitely take out of the garden and trash. They’re very contagious and I wouldn’t take any chance on that.
But the other common stuff like powdery mildew and early blight with tomatoes, I don’t worry about. Leaving the roots and the cut foliage on the bed has never caused a problem.
My gut feeling tells me I might think twice about rust and remove it from the garden if it was really bad. I think I may have had it once on pole beans I was growing to dry for winter. Also, it can show up on lima beans. I just remove those leaves as it shows up.
Follow your gut is my best advice and if your gut dictates that you follow conventional wisdom then do it.
As for me, common things like powdery mildew and a little early blight on tomatoes I can live with. Even the rust — as long as its manageable — I can live with. It’s just how things are.
Thank you Theresa, I’m glad I asked, I wasn’t expecting this answer. It’s very helpful!
I love going out during the winter to pick fresh fall-planted produce. It’s a tradition, I’d almost feel disoriented without it. Currently, I’ve got more growing for the cold season than ever — kale, tatsoi, beets, kohlrabi, cilantro, broccoli, parsley, chives, arugula, and romaine lettuce. I have hoop structures around them to protect them from freeze. We certainly will eat well ’til next spring.
Congratulations on a great job Andrew! You’ll definitely be eating well this winter.