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.
Find a slightly more comprehensive review at my original post, or check out what other people think.
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!
Sandy S says
Moles, Voles and bugs!
Kathryn St. Clare says
My biggest challenge in planning my garden is a lack of lots of space to plan a 3 yr rotation schedule amongst all the plots and veggies so I don’t encourage diseases that are shared by crops in the same family (stuff that would overwinter in the soil). Case here from the community garden I belong to: we had planted tomatoes in part of it and the crop was wiped out by late blight. Next summer, they planted potatoes in the same space and that got the blight in mid summer… all plants were yellowed and died back before August.
My biggest challenge is the damp shady spots where it’s so dank that the occasional mushroom pops up.
Jeffrey Barker says
Heartbreakingly deciding what NOT to plant because there is simply not enough room to grow everything I’d like to grow.
My biggest challenge is my procrastination. I keep thinking, “Hey, I have plenty of time to get those peas in but if I don’t finish this work today my boss will find out” or “Carrots are supposed to have successive plantings anyway…so I missed one…today was just not a good day for the kids” and before long I’m looking at fall planting opportunities for the peas and have missed every potential planting of carrots. This year will be different though…honesty is the first step.
Bobby Rodriguez says
My biggest problem is keeping track of when and what I have planted. I dont see two harvests deep. I plant something and wait for it to be ready then I think about the next thing. I wish i was wiser on what and when to plant to stay as productive as possible.
My biggest challenge is water or lack thereof. I catch rainwater off my roof but my current vegetable garden is ever so slightly uphill and water creeps through the hose to my plants. I’ve got a ‘lasagna’ cooking closer to the house, so hope to be able to plant in it next spring.
Where should I begin…space, the sun being blocked by big trees, chipmunks, chickens that jump the fence, squash vine borers, slugs…..
I have a hard time growing most anything these days. I have my best luck with jalapeños, and my worst with tomatoes and squash plants even zucchini (I know, everyone can grow zucchini ) but not me. I definitely need help.
My biggest ‘problem’ with gardening is that I get totally obsessive. I just want to get home and garden, ignoring my friends, family, and other obligations!
My biggest garden problem is me! I never get enough done.
My biggest challenge is spacing plants. They look so tiny when you set them out and I forget just how much room each plant needs.
I would say part of my challenge in planning is knowing how much time I will have available to do the garden work…things come in waves over here (like for everyone, I suppose). And I am still finding it hard to wrap my head around how to time things, so Ive ended up really only having one crop in each space. Need to work on planning for spring>fall crops and things like that.
My biggest challenge is planting my related plants far enough apart. I like to save seed, but my garden is small, and I have neighbors as well… which means that the odds of cross contamination are high! For some plants it doesn’t matter. But I always wonder when I’m going to end up planting some weird hybrid that I produced the previous season.
Sally summerfield says
My garden consists of 9 4×4!raised beds and a large pot. Mybbiggest challenges are 1. Determining the planting dates to ensure a spring, summer, and fall/ winter garden in my small space 2. To create a crop rotation schedule for my small raised bed garden.
Erika Folk says
My biggest problem planning my garden is trying to figure out how to deer-proof my garden beds.
My biggest personal problem is the cool, foggy Southern California weather. We never know exactly how much May Gray and June Gloom we are going to get from year to year, which makes for slow to grow gardens and small produce.
My biggest professional problem is selling clients on the beauty and benefits of growing your own garden. We live in a very perfection driven Southern Orange County, California.
Growing zucchini. Easiest plant ever, right? Nope. Kill it every year. Tomatoes are always a boom crop though!
Sally summerfield says
We get the first harvest off the vines but then it is a race with vine borers and hey always win.
Angela F says
My biggest challenge is probably figuring out what to grow where – companion planting and succession planting prove to be challenging to me. I’ve always got my nose on the web trying to figure it out!
I think my big challenge is just that I don’t have the space to grow everything I want, nor the time to manage all of it. I get overwhelmed and just start plunking things in the ground.
I’m going to say weed control and pest control are my greatest problems in my garden spaces. For the vegetable garden, it’s deeply disappointing to look forward to harvesting snap peas, for example, only to find that the deer have chomped every last one off of the vines.
Leslie W says
My biggest problem is knowing how much to plant. I either plant too many of one thing and not enough of another :/ This book would be awesome as I’m a fairly new beginner to gardening in the northwest!
Our biggest problem is getting gnat infestations when starting our seeds.
After your seeds are up and germinated, try cutting down on watering or switching to bottom watering so that the top layer of your soil, even just a thin layer of it, stays more dry. That seems to help.
Jana Shaw says
Having down-sized, my challenge is space. How to utilize small space for ground planting – about 10 x 10 and a slightly larger patio where I can use containers or handmade small beds. I’m reading, reading, reading, and have a lot of good information along with a few plans drawn out, but still so many questions as to what will produce the most in the small space – especially tomatoes – never can get my fill of tomatos before it’s too hot here in TX! So much to learn!
My biggest challenge of gardening is that I always want to grow more than I can use or can – especially tomatoes! I also grow things that I have never eaten – because they look so beautiful in the seed catalogs. Sometimes I end up liking them, sometimes not. But at least I try new things this way!
Sonia Leiter says
I struggle with timing things as well as keeping up with general care, how often to water, cutting back basil, etc.
When I begin planning my backyard garden (usually in December for the following year), I have to keep in mind finding neighbors and friends to water and harvest the garden in August. Due to my husband’s work schedule, we can only take vacation in August. Not wanting to attract animals to the ripe bounty of August, finding someone to watch the garden is important. Additionally, if no neighbors are available to water in case of drought, the fall harvest will be greatly reduced. Make friends with the neighbors; invite them to take whatever they want if they’ll watch the garden while we’re away. Good fences can make good neighbors. But good gardens make good friends.
Space!! There are so many things that I want to try growing; deciding what to plant is difficult! But I’m learning to start seeds at different times and re-plant when one veggie is done growing, and to use small spaces for certain things, and to just go with it when something doesn’t work out. Gardening is a learning experience and an adventure-every year.
Jen Hobbs-Butler says
The constant HOT wind at elevation 6800 high desert plains.
When the right time to plant is and making sure I have enough space in between plants so one doesn’t over power another.
Donna U says
My biggest challenges are poor soil, lack of rain and root-knot nematodes
my biggest challenge is the soil itself and the fact that I don’t know what I am doing.
My biggest challenge is timing the seeds right for my zone because of the strange weather we have been having, warm winters and then bazinga – late spring freezes.
My biggest challenge is just getting started. The planning itself is so overwhelming. What to plant, when, where, how….
Being newish at this, I buy way too many starts for the space I have and then end up planting too close together. I also don’t think about planning a fall winter garden until it’s too late to plant it.
Water! I live out in the country and get my water from a small community water system and it is very expensive! I save rain water but there isn’t much of that when the plants need it in the summer.
Margie J says
Biggest challenge when I Plan? I guess I fall into the beginners biggest mistake category. I don’t plan for anything. I just plant it and hope for the best. Which now that it has been brought to my attention, is probably why most of my stuff doesn’t work out. I also have very dry soil and have been using pots, which I am getting better at, so I keep trudging forward. If I can remember to water and put in the correct amount of sun, I am doing great!
Crystal S says
Planning ways to minimize slug problems!!
lucy I says
My biggest challenge? I live in Hawaii and while great for going to the beach, warm humid weather is brutal on many vegetables. WE do have very good luck with our fruits, but I have a lot to learn about vegetable growing. Space is also an issue, as well.
But…I keep trying, and would love a good book for some real all-around guidance!
my biggest gardening challenge is knowing what to plan when and then when I plant leafy greens, knowing when to cut them.
biggest planning challenge: Succession planting. Last year, the snap peas needed three weeks longer in the ground than we planned, and the following okra didn’t have enough time to produce much.
Chelsea Davis says
My biggest challenge is planning! I am a “stand in front of my closet every morning and then decided what to wear” kinda girl. I pack everything when I travel so I always have options. I try to live simiply but my brain does not want to operate in a less is more kinda way. So my garden tends to have a little of everything and in the end not enough of what I really wanted. So this year I am doing a simple garden where less is more!
Lisa D says
Deer! They like to mosy through the garden just as things are getting ripe then snip of the stems without even eating the goodies. That way I can’t enjoy them either.
Tank Tops says
What’s up friends, its wonderful piece of writing concerning teachingand entirely defined, keep it up all the time.
Yong Z says
Heh…. started thinking grow my own garden. So happy to bump into this website when browsing on internet to look for a pectin free jam recipe. Will definitely follow you from now on!
Figuring out how to do what I want in pots! Hopefully that won’t be an issue for too much longer.
ROSELLA SMITH says
Mainly myself staring everything late and not really having a plan. North Florida’s sandy soils, too hot summers just add to the problem.
I have a question. It’s mid-June and my spring peas are starting to look done for the year. If I’m understanding this right, would next month be a good time to plant cauliflower and broccoli for a fall crop? Is it okay to plant these cool weather crops from seed in the summer? Thank you for helping me understand this! We had a very hearty/early spring garden and with space opening up, I’d like to plant from seed whatever possible!
Christine Delaplace says
My biggest challenge is the weeds, but I read Ruth Stouts mulch method book years ago, and I loved it. So I use anything I can to mulch, bits of bark or wood, flat stones… we are also challenged by poor soil and it takes years to keep adding compost… but the mulch method pays off later.