With careful planning, seeds can be sown from winter to autumn in order to keep the garden productive pretty much all year round. Here are some tips for seed sowing for the longest harvest window. Determined growers sometimes think of the garden as a member of the family, deserving care and attention regardless of the season. Because seeds take time to mature into edible crops, this is a kind of meditation in forward thinking. The year round gardener must always be planning six months ahead.
Starting out, many gardeners think of seed sowing as a single event that marks the arrival of spring. Wait for the right date or weekend, plant the garden, and be done with it. The trick here is that crops all mature at different rates. Some crops prefer the cool weather of spring, and will bolt (go to seed) once the soil warms up. Other crops cannot stand cold temperatures, and must be started indoors for transplanting in warmer weather.
Succession sowing is the concept of planting small amounts of seeds every two to three weeks over a couple of months. Rather than have 60 heads of lettuce all ready to eat at once, it may be wiser to time them so no more than ten are ready to pick in a given week. Succession sowing is sensible for arugula, bush beans, beets, carrots, chicory, corn salad, lettuce, mescluns, mustard, pac choi, peas, radishes, spinach, and Swiss chard. Many of these can be harvested as baby leaf crops for salads.
Once the early summer peas have been harvested, plant some more lettuce. When the lettuce is done, plant some carrots for fall harvest.
Main season crops like peppers, squash, and tomatoes wouldn’t be any good for succession sowing.
Sowing for Fall & Winter Harvest
There’s no good way to predict when the cold weather will arrive or how severe it might be. But growers in south coastal BC and the maritime northwest of the US can expect relatively mild winters in most years. That means that we can plant crops in the late spring and summer that will be ready to harvest in the fall and winter. Crops that thrive in the cool weather of spring can do just as well in the cool weather of the autumn. Fast growing radishes and leafy greens like arugula and pac choi perform better in these cool seasons than in the summer.
Winter harvest vegetables include Brussels sprouts, winter cabbage, carrots, kale, parsnips, and rutabaga. Gardeners that provide their vegetables protection from frost have a vast assortment of options, including most leafy greens, scallions, cilantro, and many others.
Sowing Overwintering Crops
Late June and early July mark the time to plant certain crops that will not be ready for harvest until next spring or summer. These include purple sprouting broccoli, Galleon cauliflower, and overwintering Walla Walla onions. September is the time to plant garlic for overwintering. It will be ready for harvest the following July.
Of course, if the idea of harvesting root crops from your muddy winter garden does not appeal, it’s worth thinking about growing food indoors in the form of sprouts and microgreens.