The season of giving is upon us! And friends, do I have some giving for you. This week I’m doing a couple of great giveaways just in time for you to show some holiday love to your favorite gardener. If you win and decide your favorite gardener is you and you’re keeping the loot, no one will judge. Promise.
Today, I’m happy to be sharing Food Grown Right, In Your Backyard: A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Crops at Home. If you’ve been a reader for a while, you might remember the authors, Colin and Brad, from my original giveaway post of this same book last summer. They are the founders of the Seattle Urban Farm Company, and have written Food Grown Right, a really excellent beginner’s guide to backyard-scale edible gardening.
When Seattle Urban Farm Co. asked if I would be interested in doing a second giveaway of the book and I was like, “Do cabbageworms in my bok choy drive me crazy? Of course I would!”
Food Grown Right is optimum for new-ish veggie gardeners. If you already have a giant bookshelf full of gardening how-to, how-come and oh-now-what? books, you may find the info in Food Grown Right to be a little duplicative, but you might also appreciate having all the basics, from layout, planning and irrigation options to crop-specific growing information nicely laid-out and condensed into one easy to use reference.
Year Round Vegetable Gardening Like The Pros
So, the season of giving is fine and all, but it’s also the season of garden planning, right? This is when the seed catalogs arrive, and the graph paper comes out and everything is all full of potential. So while I had Brad and Colin on email, I also asked how they manage their year-round gardening and came away with some great tips.
If you strive to eat from your garden year-round as a cold-season gardener, right now is the best time to take stock of your successes and challenges. Look around your garden and ask how you’d like things to be different this time next year. What are you already out of and what aren’t you loving enough to actually go pick in the rain? I can already tell I need to figure out a way to get more giant kohlrabi in my life.
It’s hard to imagine since nary a spring pea has been planted, but if you want to eat your own cabbage in December you have to be kinda aware of that goal…the prior December. Why? Well, in the Pacific Northwest at least, the fall and winter crops usually go into the same ground that held the earliest spring crops. So when you are thinking about how much space to give to peas and spring radishes vs. tomatoes and cucumbers, you should keep in mind that your fall garden will probably be bounded by the space you gave to spring. By the time the summer crops wrap up it will be too late for most fall and winter crops to go in.
If that kind of seasonal think-ahead seems daunting, don’t worry, it becomes much more normal after you’ve been through the rhythm a few times. It might also help to see how everything sort of fits together. My free Year Round Planting Guide spreadsheet may help with that. Just scroll down until you see it about half way down the Downloadables section.
In the meantime, incorporate these Pro Tips for Year-Round Gardening from Brad and Colin into your four-season planning.
How should a beginning gardener who wants to begin planning and planting for year-round growing in the maritime northwest get started?
Eliot Coleman’s book Four Season Harvest is a detailed introduction to the principles of year-round growing; I strongly recommend that anyone interested in growing fall and winter crops check out this book. Our book also gives you fall and winter planting suggestions in the Month-by-Month chapter, so is a good resource to have on hand.
What is the one thing beginning gardeners get wrong when growing crops for fall, winter and over-wintered harvest?
The biggest mistake we see with beginners growing fall and winter crops is that they assume that they’re actually growing the crops in the fall and winter. To have a successful winter harvest, you need to be growing your crops in mid-summer through early fall (mid-July- September). This way, they’re sized up and almost ready for harvest before the low light levels of October set in. Because of the cool weather, fall crops don’t bolt or lose eating quality through the winter. Winter gardening is kind of like turning your vegetable plot into a giant refrigerator. If you plan properly, you can be harvesting from the garden all through the cold season and into the early spring!
What can a gardener do to ensure a great cool-weather growing season next year?
Start planning early! Planting for your fall and winter crops starts in mid-July, with the bulk of the crops planted in late August and early September. As your spring crops mature and are ready to be removed from the garden, some space will open up for fall crops. Early June is a good time to talk to nurseries and find out if they carry fall vegetable starts, and a good time to buy or order seeds for your fall crops.
What are a few of your favorite cool weather varieties?
For spinach that grows well through the fall and winter and resists downy mildew, try “Lombardia”. Claytonia is an excellent green for winter gardening (similar in taste to lettuce, but will over-winter without protection in our climate). Purple Mizuna is a beautiful, mild-tasting mustard green that also grows well during the fall and winter. “Red Russian” kale is our favorite kale variety; it does well and tastes amazing spring, summer, and fall. “Cherriette” radishes size up quickly and uniformly for September and October harvest.
Thanks, Colin and Brad, for sharing your insights!
Enter To Win A Copy of Food Grown Right, In Your Backyard
Contest open until Tuesday, December 18th at 6 pm. Continental U.S. residents only, sorry international readers. Good luck!
Pssst…you know how I said a couple of great giveaways this week? Check out Thursday’s post. Free organic seeds! That’s all I can say right now.
Update: Contest now closed. Thank you to everyone who entered, and congrats to seed-hoarder Natalie M., the winner. Natalie, check your email for instructions on how to claim your prize!