Seed packets for the fall and winter gardenSeed packets for the fall and winter garden

This year I am really hoping (and planning) to jump headfirst into fall and winter gardening. Thanks to Eliot Coleman’s Four-Season Harvest, I now know that it’s possible to have fresh produce even during winter in Missouri with the help of cold frames and low tunnels.

Step 1 of planting a fall/winter garden is ordering the seeds. I did this a couple weeks ago, and thanks to Johnny’s now have all the seeds I’ll need until next spring. (And really, I’ve ordered so many seeds in the past, I’m hoping I don’t have to order any more in the spring, either.)

I basically went through the planting chart in the back of Eliot’s book, went down the list of vegetables and picked out the ones I was willing to try. Part of the mystery behind fall/winter gardening and what makes it seem so impossible is that most of the vegetables that do well in the cold are vegetables we’re not terribly familiar with. Mâche, anyone?

I didn’t order every single thing that was on his list, but I did order a number of different things. Here’s what I’m going to try to grow this fall:

  • Claytonia
  • Escarole
  • Mâche
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Kohlrabi
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Garlic

Since garlic is a bulb, it won’t be planted (or shipped) until late fall. Most of the varieties from Johnny’s were sold out already, so I ordered the organic Russian Red variety. It’s supposed to store well, which will be ideal once we get our root cellar up and running. Russian Red is another hardneck garlic, like the German Extra-Hardy I grew this year. (I feel like I’m assembling the Axis of garlic varieties.) If we still have bulbs remaining at the end of fall, I’ll probably grow some more German Extra-Hardy. Either way, looks like we’ll be having scapes in the spring once again!

I’ve tried direct seeding the kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts a couple times already, but I think the temperature is too high for them to germinate properly. I may need to look more into germination temperatures and possibly start them in the basement or have them spend some time in the fridge. There is so much to learn!

I’m planning to build some cold frames that fit right over our raised beds. As much as I would like to use glass for the glazing, I’m convinced I would drop them or they’d get hit with a shovel and either way, I’d end up with a broken expensive cold frame. I’m going to avoid that route and just use rigid plastic instead. I may also try building a low tunnel or two for lighter protection in the late fall and early spring.

What are your fall or winter gardening plans?

3 Responses to “Preparing for the fall garden”

  1. What Pigs Don't Know
    3 August 2010 at 10:33 am #

    Where to begin? You are doing so much better than we are! I still don’t even have soil in my beds! But, at least the beds are made. I’ve made a plan of what I’m going to grow, but haven’t yet ordered a single seed. Actually, this being basically our second season of growing I’ve never ordered a seed. I’ve always just purchased them at a local reputable nursery. I know that “real” gardeners order, though, so I’ll need to start looking into that. Wish me luck – the end of August is going to be killer with us finally filling the beds, planting, and my husband and I going back to school full time, plus all three kids will be in school. Yikes! -Carrie

  2. CoMo Homestead
    3 August 2010 at 5:31 pm #

    Wow, you sound like you have your hands full!

    I don’t know that ordered seeds are necessarily any better than store-bought seeds, although you certainly have more selection and control over what you purchase if you order them.

    My very first time ordering seeds, though, I got a little over-enthusiastic and put $300 of seeds and plants in my Johnny’s shopping cart. Once I saw the total I nearly had a heart attack and was able to reduce it at least by half (which was still too much, by the way). But it’s so easy to get overly ambitious!


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