Photo by Erica Browne Grivas: Beet seedlings, seen here, do well in fall and early spring but fall into a kind of stasis, where they neither die nor thrive, in winter.
Photo by Erica Browne Grivas: Beet seedlings, seen here, do well in fall and early spring but fall into a kind of stasis, where they neither die nor thrive, in winter.

It’s enough to make you believe in time travel. I planted my tomatoes in June (thanks to this year’s marathon spring) and in mid-July, my calendar alert prompted me to go sow my winter vegetables. 

We’re used to blink-you-missed-it summers, but that was too much for me, and I put it off to go water the tomatoes.

Luckily, there is time through about mid-August to sow or transplant vegetables for fall or winter crops. You saved some space for that, right? I did this year because my tomatoes are in pots.  I moved my blueberries into my raised bed and will sow lettuce and purple bok choy at their feet.

Cool customers for the long haul

Our typically mild winters allow us to grow produce for a nice long time. Of the “cool-season” veggies, kale — especially the longer-lived lacinato varieties — can be grown and harvested nearly 365 days out of the year, given enough moisture and shade from the hottest weather.

Collard greens and purple sprouting broccoli will shrug off most winter weather too, but watch out for heavy snow which could break stalks. Last year, my purple sprouting broccoli made it through the first snow, broke off in the second, and resprouted! And was chewed all to heck by something. So if you are looking forward to making collard greens for the New Year, sow them now.

In my raised wooden bed, spinach is delighted with the shoulder seasons of fall and early spring but goes into kind of a stasis in the depths of winter. It neither dies nor thrives.

Beets? Also stasis. Chard might be the next level from spinach, seeming to like its conditions a bit toastier than spinach. All of these, if planted early enough to establish before it gets too cold, will produce in spring.

The allium family — chives, leeks, onion, and garlic can tough out the cold, but again, brush off any snow accumulation.

Cover crops like fava beans and clover can be sown now and will enjoy the cold temperature signals, wait for spring and pop up in February or March.

Gimme shelter

Lettuce can take the cool temperatures of spring, but from fall into winter requires some shelter from cold winds. Carrots will also benefit from some cover. Peas and lettuce are fast enough growers they can be sown now and enjoyed before you even need to cover them. However, you can extend the harvest several weeks if you do.

“Frost cloth” or “row cover” is the easiest choice for this, because being meshy, it lets rain in, unlike plastic, which needs to be removed for watering and aeration.

Row cover can serve an added benefit for tender seedlings which makes a hoop house a great time investment. It also acts as a fortress against cutworms, cabbage worms, slugs, and snail, who love to nibble on the tender sprouts and new leaves.

More reasons to think about winter in summer

Now is the time to shop for the bulbs you want to plant in fall to enjoy next spring. If you are adding more than 25 daffodils or tulips — and you should — the bigger the clumps, the better they look; you’ll find bulk discounts and a vastly more interesting selection online. But you need to order now, before all the snowdrops sell out.

Some things you can shop for now are discounted patio furniture and decorations, and possibly some closeout annuals and perennials at nurseries. Make sure to be hypervigilant about watering your new additions in summer — they will dry out easily until their roots are established.

So please enjoy our beautiful summers to the utmost, however short they prove. If you can save a little time to plan for fall and winter to make those cloudy times just as delicious and beautiful, you’ll be so glad you did.