What To Grow In The Winter?

I’m really starting to feel like a bonafide suburban farmer. Terms like “fall crops” and “cover crop” are becoming an everyday part of my vocabulary. Inspired by Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, my current gardening goal is to have something edible from the garden year round, fall and winter included. For the first time I’m planting a full garden of cool-weather crops and am hopeful when temperatures plunge, the veggies will keep on coming up.

So far this season I’ve planted broccoli, carrots, kale, cilantro, parsley, lettuce (a cool-weather variety) and fava beans. For the most part they’re coming up great, especially the fava beans. Those seeds have already sprouted foot-tall plants that look like a miniature forest in the open swaths of front yard where lettuces grew just a few weeks ago. A side note about fava beans – I chose to plant them because I read they are a nitrogen-fixing cover crop. The good stuff they put back in the soil is akin to adding wonderful compost to my soil (they’re called a “green manure”) but with the return of some pretty flowers in a few months and a crop of beans next spring. Territorial Seed Company has a nice variety and some good info about planting this crop.

The only trouble I’ve encountered with my fall plantings (and granted it’s still technically summer, at least for another few days) is that something ate all my carrot seedlings in the front yard. I had these beautiful tiny rows of inch-high carrot tops before I left for camping last week. I returned to discover a bare patch of dirt. The carrots I planted out back at the same time are still there and doing well. I hope whatever mysterious creature invaded the front yard does not discover the beautiful feathery tops coming up out back. Anyone know what kind of pest eats carrot tops (we don’t have bunnies) and a way to organically keep them away?

Besides cool-weather veggies, I was reminded the other day by our local paper that fall is the best time to plant just about everything else too. Cool weather is the best time for new perennials to take root and become established plus, since most people tend to plant in the spring, nurseries have pretty good deals on plants right now. I put in a grapevine the other day and plan to soon dig up some aster and spirea starts from a friend with a gorgeous perennial garden.  Think planting now, lovely healthy garden (and less work) come spring.

I’m new to this fall/ winter crop thing. Do you plant cool-weather crops? If so what do you plant and when? I still have space for my crops but am just not sure what to put in so would love some more ideas.

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