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Prepare Your Winter Garden

Summer often does not come to the Pacific NW until July — and while we get busy hiking, traveling and camping in our beautiful landscapes, don’t forget that now is the time to begin your winter garden! Many of the crops you can harvest in the fall and winter need time to grow before the winter arrives. Some crops can be harvested in the fall and others will become dormant and then begin growing again when spring arrives. 

Has your lettuce started to bolt? Hotter temperatures will cause some types of lettuce to flower and become bitter. Cut it down and sow some carrots for a tasty late-season harvest. Radishes, beets, arugula and spinach are a few easy quick-growing crops that you can sow now. Sow some parsley and root crops like rutabagas and turnips for your Thanksgiving feast!

There are a few tasks you need to do to keep your garden healthy and productive throughout the summer sun of July and August. Crop rotation will help prevent disease so don’t forget to shake things up a little in where you place them in your garden beds. Temperatures are rising and you can no longer count on the rain to irrigate your crops. Help retain moisture by covering your freshly sown beds with floating row cover. Some seeds need cooler soil to germinate. Seed some lettuce behind trellised heat crops, such as cucumbers, or grow under a shade-cloth covered cloche.

Add compost or worm castings to boost soil fertility but do not add lots of fertilizer this time of year or you may stimulate too much growth. Thin the seedlings to allow more space than you would for spring planting because it is more difficult for the plants to take up nutrients as the soil cools down. Check seed catalogs for cold-hardy varieties; remember that though it is hot now, these plants will need to be durable when winter weather arrives in the northwest.