Cool season gardening in Cascadia

Fingers crossed that we actually get a cool season, with our usual fall and winter rains!

If you are in the Pacific Northwest, this is the perfect time to get your garden planted with one last round of crops. Summer has been brutal, so we’ve kept the main garden down to the bare essentials, plus warm weather veggies – assorted lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, green beans, cabbage, tomatoes, cukes, zukes, corn, squash, watermelon, onions, garlic & peppers. Most are on drip or soaker hoses, keeping the need for aerial watering (i.e. sprinklers) to a minimum, but the heat still causes issues with some crops. wintergarden

One thing we’ve learned over the years is that it just isn’t possible, or even desirable, to preserve every crop in the traditional canning/freezing/drying methods. Another thing we’ve learned is that the produce we miss most during the rainy season is leafy greens. So narrowing our focus to these crops, planted in one or two beds, makes sense.

Taking the long-range climate forecast to heart, we’re pinning our hopes on a warmer, though possibly not wetter, fall/winter, and have starts almost ready to plant out in our soon-to-be-built cedar raised beds and bucket/barrel drip watering system. Last year we finally managed to overwinter some long-suffering and hardy chard, mostly by accident, since the wind did a number on our visqueen hoop cover.

This season we plan to unleash a new and improved arsenal of “season extenders” in the form of modular layers for our standard 4 x 8 raised beds – woven poly hoop covers and polycarbonate hotbed/coldframe ‘lids’ that can let light in while holding some heat. The lower profile lids should also allow us to add supplemental heat if need be, in the form of heated seed mats or an incandescent light bulb.

Here are some good resources for getting your own fall planting underway:

Ed Hume’s Fall and Winter Vegetable Planting Guide – Some good basic information from a well-known PNW expert.

Fall and Winter Vegetable Gardening in the Pacific Northwest – A concise 8-page pdf with a planting calendar and veggie variety recommendations, published jointly by the Oregon, Idaho & Washington state extension offices.

Winter Vegetable Gardening – More great information by The Westside Gardener, with lots of other pages and links to explore.

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