Ann Wright: Gardening for winter | TheUnion.com

Ann Wright: Gardening for winter

Ann Wright
Columnist

As tomatoes are ripening and other fruits of the garden are ready to pick, days are slightly shorter, some nights cooling — seems like fall may be knocking.

In preparation for fall planting, now is a good time to select a section of the garden for some winter vegetables. A winter, or cool season garden, can provide a bountiful supply of fresh greens, lettuce, radish and other nutritious vegetables throughout the season.

One advantage of growing a winter garden is that it may take less work than the summer garden — watering won't need to be done as often, and weed and bug pests are generally less of a problem in the cool months. The key is to start early and plant cold-tolerant varieties.

Many cool season plants can survive temperatures that drop into the teens if well established and if given some protection. In planning a winter garden, select a site that benefits from the warmest microclimates in the area — such as along a south facing wall or next to the house or a structure that may reflect heat. Concentrate on a site that is protected from cold, dry wind.

Once a site or sites have been selected, the next big step is figuring out what to grow — as Master Gardeners say, "grow what you like to eat." There are lists of cool season vegetables in many gardening books including the "Master Gardeners Western Nevada County Gardening Guide."

The website also has a list of cool season crops at http://ncmg.ucanr.org (click on Home Vegetable Gardening link from the home page).

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Some of the suggested vegetables to direct seed include carrots, beets, lettuce, peas, spinach, Swiss chard — these cool season seeds can be sown anywhere from 15 to 60 days before the first frost. Kale and broccoli starts can be transplanted 75 to 105 days before the first frost.

Check seed packets or plant labels for specific directions as to when to plant in the late summer or early fall.

Workshop today

For help with planning and tips on growing a winter garden, plan to attend the Master Gardener's workshop today — "Eat Your Greens: How to Grow Delicious Vegetables all Winter," from 10 a.m. to noon at the Demonstration Garden on the Nevada Irrigation District grounds, 1036 W. Main Street in Grass Valley.

If tomatoes are some of your favorite summer fruits, plan to join us for our annual "Bite Me! Tomato Tasting and Open House," where dozens of varieties of tomatoes are available to be sampled — and then judged for flavor. This popular event is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Demonstration Garden, (1036 W. Main St.) and is a wonderful way to see what specific tomatoes look like, and especially how they taste.

Participants are able to learn what types of tomatoes they like and want to grow next year. As a bonus, in addition to sampling and rating the tomatoes, there are two workshops planned for this event:

10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.: The Amazing Mason Bees

11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Salvias Workshop

As fall planting is on the horizon, mark your calendars for the Master Gardeners Fall Plant Sale from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 22, at the Demonstration Garden.

Cool season vegetable starts will be featured, as well as native and some non-native perennials. This is a good time to bring garden-relate questions to the Master Gardeners!

For more information on this or other Master Gardener activities, call 530-273-0919, check the website, or listen to our Master Gardener and Friends radio show from 10 a.m. to noon every Saturday on 830 AM radio, KNCO.

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.