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Preparing for Fall, Winter, Spring


Preparing for Fall, Winter, Spring


Many new gardeners focus on planting in spring. But if you make the right choices for where you live, you can continue to sow and grow from June on through the rest of summer in order to have plenty of food in your garden through fall, winter, and into the following spring. 

Those in temperate climate gardens will generally be busiest with sowing in spring. You may have succession-sowed certain crops up to around midsummer. In warmer regions (or if growing in winter undercover), many also start sowing again in the fall. But to make sure you can eat from your garden year-round, sowing can be viewed as an almost year-round activity.

To help you move away from a one- or two-season model for seed sowing, here are some of the crops I sow after midsummer as part of my planning ahead for the seasons to come.

Lettuce (and Other Hardy Winter Greens)

Lettuce is prone to bolting in summer weather, so many will not sow these in the warmest part of the year. However, I do sow several different kinds of lettuce in July and August.

First of all, I keep succession-sowing summer lettuce varieties, but do so in areas where they are shaded by other crops and, of course, kept well watered. These later sown summer lettuce crops make for a useful harvest in fall.

Secondly, after midsummer, I start sowing winter lettuces, which I can grow throughout the winter months inside my polytunnel. As with summer types, I succession-sow these, starting in July for fall, then sowing batches right through to October under cover, which means I have these fresh salad greens right through to spring.

Land cress, endives, and chards/perpetual spinach are other hardier winter greens that I sow through later summer and into fall for harvests through the colder months in my polytunnel.

Harvesting endive.

Michel VIARD / Getty Images

Brassica (Cabbage Family Plants)

Members of the Brassica family are among the most important crop families that I grow in my garden through the whole of the year.

Quick-heading Calabrese broccoli can still be sown outdoors soon after midsummer for an autumn harvest. Another lesser-known option is broccoli rabe, or rapini, which produces slightly spicy sprouting broccoli shoots just 40 days after sowing. Turnip greens can also be ready around 4 weeks from sowing.

Kale sown outdoors in July can be used for tender baby greens in fall, or overwintered for a great source of greens throughout the winter months. Here in Scotland, this is a traditional staple crop—so much so that here, a kitchen garden is often traditionally called a “kailyard.”

Jacky Parker Photography / Getty Images

I sow sprouting broccoli in summer for an abundant spring polytunnel crop next year. This is, I find, a really abundant source of food before most spring-sown crops are ready.

Some other favorites of mine are oriental brassicas which have great cold tolerance and produce prodigious quantities of fresh greens. They can survive outdoors in warmer regions, but do very well in a polytunnel or undercover even in cooler climes.

I grow a wide range: pak choi, mizuna, mibuna, tatsoi, and more, as well as various mustard greens. Again, as with lettuce, these can be succession-sown right up until early- to mid-autumn.

Salad Onions (Bunching Onions, Spring Onions, Scallions)

Many will be familiar with planting overwintering onion sets, garlic, etc. in the fall. But another strategy that can be useful is sowing salad onions after midsummer for a winter or spring crop.

These alliums are so much easier to grow from seed than bulbing onions, and are grown for their greens. These are another great crop to fill the traditional “hungry gap” next spring. With their strong scent, they are useful in organic pest control around other crops.

Trimmed onion starts ready for fall planting.

Barbara Rich / Getty Images

Root Crops for Autumn and Winter

While it is typically too late to sow roots like carrots and beets for full-sized roots after midsummer, you can still consider sowing summer root vegetables successionally in July, to pull as tender babies in fall. Baby beets and baby carrots can be a real treat.

If you have a polytunnel or other undercover growing area, there are varieties of beet and carrot that you can consider sowing in August or even early September for a later crop in some areas.

Another useful root crop is turnips, which I sow up until the end of July for autumn or winter harvests. These are wonderful for hearty soups and stews. Bulb fennel can be sown up until the end of August, and is less likely to bolt when planted in cooler weather. 

I always sow some black Spanish radishes and daikon radishes between July and September. You can grate these into salads, but they are also great as cooking radishes, used in soups and stews. 

White radish in a field.

Xvision / Getty Images

Peas and Beans for an Earlier Harvest Next Year

Even when summer is at an end, there are crops that I sow for spring harvest the following year. I like to overwinter both peas (round-seeded, winter types) and fava beans in my polytunnel. I tend to sow these in September and October where I live.

What, when and how precisely you can grow and arrange your gardening calendar will depend on precisely where you live. But with the right strategies and crop choices, we can all learn to sow, grow, and harvest not only in the summer months, but through much more of the year.

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