After the past week of sunshine, Squamish gardens are bursting out all over. Veggie growers are probably experiencing a flush of produce in the garden and enjoying every bite. We’ve harvested beets, broccoli, shallots, rhubarb, lettuce, chard, kale and scallions, all out of our little raised bed.
I made the mistake of planting some summer squash plants in our cold and dreary May. They don’t look so hot at the moment, but I live in hope they might flower soon and put on a dramatic push to produce fruit later in the season.
Planting early is something to remember when we are itching to put in those warm-season crops earlier in the season. Yes, all the guidebooks say to plant by mid-May. But heat-loving veggies really won’t do well in cold and wet soil. The cold nighttime temperatures can actually set back the fruit production. So the early bird doesn’t always get the worm.
Shallots were new for us this year and we have a banner crop. Like onions, you can eat shallots fresh, or save them for storage. When the tops have fallen over naturally, lift the individual bulbs to break the roots. Leave on the ground (on a sunny day ), or in a dry place until the skins rustle before storing for them winter use. So far we have just been sauntering down to the garden to pull out a shallot when we need one for a salad, etc.
It is wonderful to relish in our early-summer bounty, but August in the vegetable garden is not a time to rest on one’s laurels. Certain crops can continue to be sown and now is the perfect time to think about winter gardening.
First, lets clear up the confusion about “winter gardening” (which is summer planting for a winter harvest) and “ overwintering” (which is basically summer planting for a spring harvest).
In our relatively mild coastal climate, we can grow some of our favourite veggies throughout the winter (sometimes you will need to provide protection). These are plants we can eat throughout the winter and which need to be planted in August. This, my friends, is “winter gardening.”
Try planting seeds like kale, Swiss chard, radicchio, radish, lettuce, spinach and corn salad this month. There are special overwintering seed varieties available from West Coast Seeds, which you can find here in Squamish. I just planted some late-season carrots and peas.
The greatest challenges to winter gardening are too much rain, low light and fluctuating temperatures.
Overwintering is different from winter gardening. Basically you are starting plants that are put into the garden as transplants in late summer. The established plants are like teenagers, waiting for the longer days of spring to finish growing.
Vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are great for winter gardening, but you have to have thought ahead and be ready to put in small transplants by the middle of this month. They grow slowly throughout the winter and finish growing and are ready for harvest in early spring.
Keep on enjoying your summer vegetable bounty, but stretch yourself this season and keep the harvest going throughout the winter.