It’s time to think about a good location for a successful fall/winter vegetables garden. Photo by Sandy Cortez

It’s time to think about a good location for a successful fall/winter vegetables garden. Photo by Sandy Cortez

Get It Growing: Plant fall, winter vegetables now

Plant a winter garden now? Yes, for residents of the North Olympic Peninsula, the maritime climate means the average minimum temperatures rarely drop below freezing(except for those living at higher elevations.)

But now, in the middle of summer, is the time to begin planning for and planting that fall/winter vegetable garden!

Ideally, plants will be sown late enough so that crops will not mature too early during the warm summer and fall, but soon enough so that they are well-established by the first frost. First frost in Clallam County, on average, occurs from mid-October to mid-November, but can come as early as mid-September. As a result, most winter crops are planted from mid-July through August in local gardens.

As summer crops are being harvested, think about a good location for a successful fall/winter vegetables garden. It is best to choose the sunniest and warmest place on your property to ensure the maximum amount of heat and light for your plants.

Raised beds are a perfect choice if available. The winter will bring rain; good drainage is essential. Excess or standing water can suffocate plant roots and cause bulbs to rot.

Rejuvenate the nutrients in your planting beds by adding compost.

In a small garden, fast growing vegetables such as spinach, leaf lettuce and radishes can be replanted, in succession, in the same area.

However, it is a good idea to rotate other crops as much as possible.

Crop rotation can be an effective way to control soil-borne plant diseases if the alternate crop is not susceptible to the disease. In general, avoid planting crops from the same family in the same area (for example, Brussels sprouts should not follow broccoli, kale or cabbage as they are all brassicas).

Select crops and varieties that are specifically suited for shorter days and colder temperatures. Seed packages provide information about planting dates, days to maturity and hardiness. Leafy green vegetables, root crops, and brassica crops are well-suited for winter gardening.

Leafy green vegetables such as kale, Asian greens, spinach, chard and leaf lettuce are perfect crops for the novice winter gardener. They may need to be covered with a light floating row cover in summer to protect young plants from insects and scorching. Space individual plants farther apart than summer crops to improve air circulation around the leaves.

Slower-growing crops such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and parsnips benefit from being sowed early in the summer. If you fall behind, look for winter vegetables starts at local nurseries and transplant into the garden in August.

Root crops such as carrots, leeks and turnips require well-drained soil, tilled to 12 inches. They need approximately an inch of water per week in the summer. Pile on one to two inches of dry soil around the stems to protect them from the cold. Root crops can be stored in the soil all winter. Harvest root crops in early spring, before they go to seed or become woody.

Continue to water all the crops until reliable winter rains begin. It may be necessary to remove heavy mulch to prevent excess moisture or mold. Do not fertilize vegetable crops late in the fall. Nitrogen encourages water-filled tissue, increasing susceptibility to freezing.

Floating row covers will provide some cold protection but should not be allowed to freeze on the crop. There are a variety of other ways to keep your plants warmer including cloches, cold frames and low tunnels. Simple ideas and plans can be found online.

Keep in mind, the weather on the Olympic Peninsula can be unpredictable. A crop that does well one year may succumb to a hard frost the next. Don’t lose heart; rarely does the whole winter garden perish.

Taking the guesswork out

To play the odds, succession plant on two or more dates, spaced seven to 10 days apart. Worst case, if the first frost comes late and the first planting bolts, there remains a second planting for winter harvest.

Or, if the first frost date comes early, the second planting will not be fully mature but may go dormant and begin to grow again in the spring.

For more detailed vegetable gardening information and a planting calendar, download the free WSU Extension publication “Home Vegetable Gardening in Washington.” Go to and enter EM057E.

Another excellent resource is a joint publication from the Oregon State University, University of Idaho and Washington State University, titled, “Fall and Winter Gardening in the PNW.” It can be found online at:

Susan Kalmar is a Clallam County Master Gardener.

More in Life

Bird Tales: Feathers

It’s August in Sequim, and if you notice that the birds in… Continue reading

Veterans Corner: Congratulations to the All-American VFW Post 6787!

VFW Post 6787 in Carlsborg has been awarded National recognition as an… Continue reading

Scout looks to raise funds for SHS ‘Spirit Signs’

Eagle Scout project Who: Sequim teen Kaleb Needoba What: Eagle Scout project… Continue reading

Join Big Library Read with ‘The Darwin Affair’

Local book lovers can join thousands of readers around the world in… Continue reading

Parenting In Focus: A child’s hearing checklist

One of the ways a parent can tell if their child is… Continue reading

NOLS, Clallam Resiliency Project, panel invite community to consider ‘No Small Matter’

The North Olympic Library System (NOLS) is partnering with the Clallam Resiliency… Continue reading

Get It Growing: Native plants to attract wildlife

The Olympic Peninsula is an extraordinary place to behold a diversity of… Continue reading

Faith news — Aug. 12, 2020

Online mass services set Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church (121 E.… Continue reading

A&E briefs — Aug. 12, 2020

Bread & Gravy set for KSQM’s ninth ‘Music Where You Park’ Bread… Continue reading

Most Read