Get it Growing: Time to plant for a fall/winter garden

It is time to plant a fall and winter garden!

You may be wondering if we have the timing right on this topic since it seems we have just gotten the Summer garden planted. The answer is YES, the timing is correct! Fall and winter crops need the warm temperatures of July and August to get established, to produce after the cool weather arrives and to survive the cold temperatures of winter.

In addition to enjoying the sunny warmth of July, now is the time to plant and sow for a fall and winter harvest of fresh vegetables.

At altitudes below 1,000 feet frost in the soil is rare and usually can be prevented with mulch on the soil surface. Because winters are normally quite wet it is important that your fall/winter garden be well drained.

When to water

To ensure germination of seeds in July and August, water the planting area a day or two prior to sowing the seeds. After you make the furrow for the seeds, water directly into the furrow. Sow the seeds after the water is absorbed. Overhead watering after planting can cause a hard crust to form as the soil dries. A mixture of peat moss and vermiculite or composted sawdust and sand used as a covering does not form a hard crust as does garden soil.

Keep the area moist as the seeds are germinating and while the seedlings are becoming established. Since you do not have time to reseed areas that do not germinate, consider planting two seeds instead of one and thinning as the seedlings grow.

Going, getting green

If your family loves green beans, sow more bush beans before mid-July. Most varieties of beans require about 55 days to mature. Most lettuces will mature quickly enough to also be candidates for a fall harvest. A winter crop of Swiss chard should be sown by mid-July. Small leaves from Chard planted between mid-July and mid-August can be used in fall salads. Leaves from Chard, pak choy and kale can be used throughout the winter. Consider using floating row cover over plants for protection and warmth.

Chard, pak choy and kale that survive the winter will begin growing when the sunny days of spring begin to warm the soil. These plants will produce fresh greens much earlier than if you wait until spring to plant seeds or transplants.

Beets planted in early July can be harvested in fall and into winter. Remember, early frosts tell the plants to begin storing sugar to survive the winter, so beets harvested late in the year can be sweeter than those harvested in summer.

Cover the beets with straw to protect them through the coldest months.

Throughout July and August you can plant collards (for winter and spring use), endive, kohlrabi, leaf lettuces, mustard greens, overwintering onions, radishes, scallions, spinach and turnips.

Check seed catalogues or go online to seed company sites to learn more about the varieties of seeds that are most suited to fall and winter gardens.

As the summer produce winds down, it is a treat to have fresh vegetables appearing for your fall and winter table. It’s time to plant!


Judy English is a Washington State University-certified, Clallam County Master Gardener.


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