Winter Vegetables – Eugene Weekly

Winter Vegetables – Eugene Weekly

It happens every year. The glory of abundant produce from our gardens and the many wonderful farms that surround us in this valley is beginning to wane. Friends and family no longer send you home with bags full of zucchini. You have preserved, pickled, sauced and frozen as much as your pantry shelves can accommodate. Once you have closed your beds down and planted your cover crops (we are partly facing blood red clover and annual rye around here, but follow your joy), it’s time to sit back and relax during the cold months.

But what if you are not ready to say goodbye to fresh ingredients yet? Fear not, there is still time!

When the temperature cools, it creates a great last-minute window for one last repeat of the cooler weather-loving vegetables of spring. With Oregon’s estimated first frost date in mind, you can plan a few more crops. This year, it looks like it’s going to land somewhere in the latter half of October.

Put your kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce and peas in the ground for one last round. With slightly cooler temperatures, it is a good idea to sow more vigorously than you do in the spring to ensure better germination success.

If you do not start from seed, you have even more time to care for a few more crops. Lots of places still have vegetable starters available for you. Once the soil begins to cool, you can extend your season a little longer and warm up by using mulch of straw, row cover or even a cold frame to keep the temperature up around the delicate roots.

Even if you feel like finishing garden work for the year, but do not want to see all the beautiful garden space you have created go to waste during your rest months, then you are overwintering some crops. Getting carrots and beets in the ground means they have all winter to grow underground (you will lose your tops, so be sure to know where they are planted). Mulch them really well and be amazed as you harvest into the winter.

Many people will tell you that this is the best root vegetable of the year because of something called chill-sweet. The vegetables, to protect themselves from low temperatures, convert starch into sugar, resulting in some of the sweetest vegetables of the year. Be sure to get them off the ground before the ground gets warm again in the spring.

Also, consider filling a corner of your garden with garlic. Once the bulbs are planted, watered in and mulched, you will not see them again until harvest in midsummer. However, a good hardneck garlic will give you garlic waste a few weeks before your garlic harvest, so it’s basically a two-in-one crop.

As with all gardening, never be afraid to experiment. Each year and each season brings unique challenges, but also unique opportunities to enjoy fresh vegetables from your own garden. Some varieties do better than others in cold weather, so be sure to read your seed packets. Use local resources such as the Oregon State University Extension Service and its Master Gardener program for additional information and troubleshooting. And enjoy all the vegetables this season has to offer!

You can access the OSU extension at Extension.OregonState.edu.
Sarah Decker has been cultivating gardening, largely by trial and error, in Eugene for well over a decade.

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