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COLUMN: Still plenty of time to plant in B.C.
August is a very important transitional time in our vegetable gardens.
Some vegetables are still maturing, but many others have finished completely, leaving gaps here and there that could still produce a few crops. In the Lower Mainland and the Valley, fast crops like lettuce, brassicas, peas, beans, radishes, swiss chard and beets can easily go in now, especially from started crops or transplants, for harvesting from September through next March and beyond.
In southwestern B.C., our vegetable gardens can be producing 12 months a year, and even in some colder parts of the province, selective planting can be done. Potted perennial vegetables, like horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes and rhubarb, can be planted now. Perennial herbs like mint, parsley, chives, marjoram and oregano can also be planted for some late fall and early spring additions to your culinary dishes. September is also the best time to plant garlic for next year.
For some delicious spinach-like greens, swiss chard can be planted now. Once established, it will tolerate a fair bit of cold before it either freezes or goes dormant. The same is true of spinach. ‘Perennial Spinach’, which is actually a chard, and West Coast Seeds’ ‘Bloomsdale Savoy’ are two varieties that can be used in 45 days.
There is even time for some root crops like beets. In the worst-case scenario, all you will get are the greens, but even they are delicious. Varieties like ‘Winterkeeper Lutz’, for example, mature in 34 days – now that is quick!
Lettuce is, by far, the most popular of greens, and seeded now, almost any variety of leaf lettuce will do just fine. The ‘Butter Crunch’ type matures in about 60 days, while the loose leaf varieties, like ‘Black Seeded Simpson’ and ‘Red Sails’, will be on your table in 45 days. For winter greens, ‘Corn Salad’ is still one of the best as is ‘Winter Density’. Both have better flavour with a light frost.
Certain varieties of bunching onions and scallions can still be planted for fall harvests because they mature in 60 days. Up until that time, you have the greens to enjoy. There are also hardy winter varieties you can plant now for harvesting in spring. ‘Kincho’ and ‘Pacific’ will survive most winters.
Who couldn’t find a spot now for radishes? Almost any variety matures in 25 days and in drier weather, you will find fewer maggots. Keep them out of old cabbage areas and rake a little wood ash into the soil for better maggot control.
Winter cauliflower, like ‘Galleon’, and cabbage, like ‘January King’, will mature in February if planted now. ‘Purple Sprouting’ and ‘Rudolph’ broccoli are other winter favourites. Many folks also transplant the late ‘Lacinato’(Black Tuscan), ‘Winterbor’ and ‘Redbor’ kale at this time of year. Winter hardy leeks can go in now as well, to round out your winter gardens.
Today there is an excellent selection of winter veggies both from seed and transplants. You will probably not have enough empty spaces to plant all these wonderful fall and winter vegetables, but give some a try. When the weather cools down and all the tomatoes, peas, beans and peppers are gone, just think what you can look forward to – your own fresh taste of fall and winter.