Good morning gardening friends,
September arrived this weekend. Do you feel the whispering of autumn in the cool early morning as the sun is rising later? Indeed Autumn Equinox is September 21st, however often we have delicious warm weather through September. Late summer in Portland means a garden bursting with fresh delicious produce. The summer bounty we are harvesting in our garden includes: basil, cucumber, cantaloupe, green beans, leeks, mesclun mix, summer squash, tomatoes, watermelon, winter squash, and zucchini.
Local stone fruit and melons are amazing this year, so get them this month while you can. Local apples and pears are just beginning to show up in stores. I've been freezing fresh berries and stone fruit all summer long. As the weather cools in September and October, there is some epic gluten-free baking of cobblers, quick breads, and muffins in store for me.
During those 90 degree August days it is hard to imagine summer is the time to begin thinking about a fall and winter garden. But believe it or not July and August are the months to begin planting your garden for a fall and winter harvest. Unfortunately the bad news is you may have missed your planting window for some winter crops. The good news is there is still plenty you can plant in early September.
Portland’s warm fall and mild winter temperatures make an ideal climate for food growing into winter. According to the farmer’s almanac our average first frost date has now shifted to November 15th.
When thinking about planting fall and winter edibles, in general you want them to be at harvestable maturity by this average first frost date. So if you are interested in planting broccoli and the variety you select says 90 days to maturity you need to count back 90 days from November 15th and plant on August 15th. Other factors that effect plant growth to consider are the shorter day lengths and the farther position of the sun during fall and winter.
Some crops that do well in the cooler weather of fall and winter are:
endive & escarole
herbs-chervil, cilantro, and parsley
You can also plant seed potatoes in the summer for a late fall harvest.
Many crops are intended to overwinter. You plant them in the fall and they mature for harvest the following spring or summer. Fava beans, garlic, onions and shallots are all overwintering crops. There are also many overwintering varieties of broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, and leeks.
A great resource for timing your fall/winter garden planting is the Territorial Seed Company. Check out their very informative fall and winter growing guide.
Some of the longer maturing crops are brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, celeriac, rutabaga and parsnip. It is too late to plant those in September for a crop in time for winter. If you want to give it a try definitely use a transplant vs direct seeding and be prepared for season extension with a frost blanket or cold frame.
What I suggest planting in the garden the first week of September:
From seed: arugula, endive, chervil, mache, mesclun mix, radish
From transplants/starts: beets, carrots,collards, cilantro, escarole/endive, fennel, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, parsley, peas-snow & snap, radicchio, scallions, spinach, swiss chard. You can also plant any perennial herbs in September.
In October I will plant bulbs for garlic and shallots to overwinter, as well as cover crops to help enrich the resting soil over the winter. And don't forget September and October are the perfect time for fall-planted spring-flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, and buttercups! Stay tuned for more details on these autumn garden tasks.
While you are enjoying the end of summer and reaping the abundant harvest of your garden, remember to grab a glass of iced tea and kick back with your fall and winter seed catalogs and planting calendar. When the winter weather sets in you will be grateful you planned and planted ahead for a cool-season harvest.