Preparing the fall-winter garden

Sharon Hanna on planning and preparing for your fall-winter gardening season.

Sharon Hanna on planning and preparing for your fall-winter gardening season

Did you know that in Vancouver, food can be grown throughout fall and winter? Last year, kale and leeks survived three feet of snow in my garden, and though bashed around by minus 20 wind chill, came back just fine after the thaw. Many veggies—especially members of the Brassica family like kale and cabbage—taste sweeter after being kissed by frost. 

But where will I plant more things, you may be thinking—your garden is overly full, and will be until September! The answer: sow seeds in pots to transplant by late September. Love leeks? Until early August, sow 20 leek seeds to a 4-inch pot, grow in nice dappled light, and when they reach 5 inches or so, dig a shallow trench in your garden, and plant them out about 4 inches apart in good soil with some added organic matter, like compost or Seasoil. Water if it’s hot—they’ll grow quickly, and you’ll be enjoying leek and potato soup in the chill of winter.  

Other veggies to seed as transplants now through mid-August are lettuce/mesclun greens, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, kale and members of the Chicory family like escarole, endive and radicchio. Best grown over winter, cold weather helps radicchio’s bright colours to develop, and makes it less bitter.    
Still time to direct-sow beets, carrots, Swiss chard, spinach, turnips and broccoli raab (rapini); leave root crops in the ground—mulched with hay or straw—for gradual harvest. Continue to sow chervil, cilantro, mesclun/greens, arugula, kale, green onions, Giant red mustard, komatsuna, mizuna, etc. until late August or early September. In October, plant garlic and broad beans.

If you are a white-knuckle gardener at this point, try kale. It’s completely forgiving, grows between the cracks of the sidewalk, and you can’t kill it. There are many lovely varieties, it self-sows, can be prepared in delicious ways and is packed with nutrients! What more could you want in a vegetable?