“The seeds of a winter garden in the PNW are quite literally sown at the height of summer.”
– Lorene Edwards Forkner – author, Vegetable Gardening in the Pacific Northwest
Last October, a friend mentioned, “I love winter squash, I am going to plant some!” Unfortunately I had to break the news that she was about five months behind in her planting schedule because, regardless of their name, winter squash need to be planted in the springtime. So as we enjoy the beautiful summer weather and the delicious tomatoes, cucumbers, and stone fruits that come along with the season, the time to plan and prepare for your fall and winter garden is now.
The mild winters in Seattle allow us to harvest vegetables late into the season even as the days get shorter and cooler. I keep carrots in the ground throughout the fall and winter, heading out to pick a few from my outdoor crisper as I need them. There are many vegetables that can be sown in the next few weeks that can provide an autumn bounty for your kitchen.
To save water and protect the new plants from sunburn, you can use a shadier part of the garden to start fall and winter seedlings. To promote germination of your seeds, keep things moist by using damp burlap or lightweight floating row cover over the area. As the plants size up over the next few weeks and the weather cools off, you can move them to another part of the garden for increased sunlight.
Plants to start now
Broccoli can be seeded 4-6 inches apart and then spaced 12-24 inches apart as they grow. If you choose a sprouting broccoli varietal you will get a large floret from the plant first and then after you cut the central flower bud you will get a second crop of smaller shoots.
Kale is another plant that likes cool moist weather so getting some seeds in the ground now will provide an abundant fall harvest as they will be sizing up as other plants are finishing up. Consider a variety pack of seeds that combines red, green and/or lacinato styles of plants and broadcast a small handful of seeds.
Brussels Sprouts can be hard to start from seed but if the nursery has a few transplants give them a try. These plants will need consistent watering until the fall rains begin. Once the small cabbage heads (the sprouts) start forming on the stalk you can harvest them for those cozy winter meals.
If you had good luck with your lettuce planting in the spring and want to do another crop, give it a few more weeks before planting. Lettuce seeds really don’t like the heat and are likely to bolt. I tuck a few seeds in under my tomato plants which can provide some shade to the lettuce seedlings as they get started.