Plant these cold-hardy crops now for a more flavorful winterAug 21, 2023 01:44PM ● By Bryan Reed
Even if you missed my column last month, there’s still time to plant short-season and cold-tolerant vegetables. Salad greens, spinach, kale, chard and mustards are popular seeds that you can start now. Getting them in the ground before September 20 will establish roots so they can produce while tolerating light frosts.
Many seed companies offer winter-specific varieties that grow well in cold temperatures and less daylight. For optimal success, choose plants that can reach maturity within 50 days or less. I’ve had great luck growing romaine, oakleaf and butterhead lettuces; arugula; space and auroch spinach varieties; and lacinato and red Russian kale. I’ve also found the traditional red and white stemmed chard to be very cold hardy, but other varieties don’t produce nearly as well in the fall.
Green onions, radishes and kohlrabi produce a crop fairly quickly. Asian greens like pak choi and tatsoi are quick maturing, as either individual leaves or whole heads, and are cold hardy. The red varieties gain more intense color as the nights get colder.
Short-season peas are another viable option. The tendrils are delicious and nutritious, and they may even produce pods depending on the temperatures.
Garden centers and hardware stores will soon offer end-of-the-season pricing on bulbs, so now is a great time to stock up.
Some bulbs grow best after experiencing a cold period of dormancy in the ground, so planting them now can make for a stronger and more showy plant this spring. Bulbs are perennials, which means your planting efforts will pay off with blooms for years to come.
Most bulbs are planted twice as deep as the height of the bulb, with the pointy end up if there is one.
Irises and daffodils grow quite well in our climate, and add color and diversity to our yards in the spring. Tulips, lilies and crocus come in a range of colors as well. If planted now, hyacinth will establish roots before the first frost and you’ll be rewarded with its wonderful scent in spring.
GARLIC, THE FALL KING
As autumn approaches, garlic is king! Not only is it the most useful health-promoting crop, but it’s easy to grow and stores well.
I prefer to plant garlic in late September, but any time between September 15 to October 31 falls within the window of opportunity. It’s still a good idea to mulch garlic with straw or leaves to keep the soil from freezing too deep. I don’t recommend planting store-bought garlic, as it has likely been sprayed with a sprouting inhibitor. Even organic garlic was probably grown in a mild climate like California and may not be suited to produce well here.
Hardneck varieties are the preferred choice of growers in northern climates. They grow big cloves around a hard stem and produce scapes in the spring, which are good for cooking. Elephant garlic also grows well.
Use seed garlic from your local garden center to ensure a good crop next summer, Then save some bulbs from the harvest for next year’s planting and you can maintain the genetics you paid for.
HOW TO PLANT GARLIC
- Break apart the garlic bulb and plant the individual cloves with the paper still on them.
- Plant about 2 inches deep, pointy end up.
- The best garlic grows where there’s a good supply of nutrients. Compost, bone meal and fishmeal are popular fertilizers to use. Any 5-10-10 formula will help, but sulfur is important for full-flavored bulbs to develop as it promotes allicin, the health-promoting compound that makes garlic so special.
- Most well-made compost has sulfur but I would add Sul-Po-Mag (a blend of sulfur, potassium and magnesium) to the hole of each planted clove. Epsom salt is 13% sulfur so 1 teaspoon per clove or a couple of tablespoons spread over a planted square yard will help your crop.
- Plant cloves 6-8 inches apart. A single 10-foot row can yield about 5 pounds of garlic, depending on the variety.
SEPTEMBER PLANTING DATES
For those planting by the biodynamic calendar, September 6-20 is the most favorable time for planting seeds and bulbs. This is the period when germination in the soil is optimal and the waxing moon increases its gravitational pull to aid in new seedling development.