by BRIAN MINTER
August 4, 2004
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 coastal areas there is a tremendous selection of vegetables that can be set out now for harvesting from September through next March and beyond. In southwestern BC, our vegetable gardens could be producing twelve months a year, and even in some colder parts of the province selective planting can be done. 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.
For some delicious greens, Swiss chard can be planted now, especially the colourful 'Bright Lights' variety. Once established, it will tolerate a fair bit of cold and keep producing all year. The same is true of spinach. West Coast Seed's 'Bloomsdale Savoy' and 'Skookum', with its crisp, clean flavour, are two varieties that will grow quickly and hold in the cold for a long fall and winter harvest.
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. The novelty varieties, like 'Little Egypt' 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', 'Super Prize' and 'Red Sails', will be on your table in 45 days. If you insist on the slower maturing head varieties, get hold of 'Frosty'. It will be out in your garden, ready to pick in October when lettuce is more expensive to purchase. To keep your lettuce going, 'Winter Density', a Butterhead/Romaine cross and 'Corn Salad', with its nutty flavour, can be seeded now for winter harvest.
Certain varieties of bunching onions and scallions can still be planted for fall harvests because they mature in 50 to 65 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. Scallions and 'Pacific Bunching' onions 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. 'White Icicle' is better for hot weather.
Winter cauliflower like 'Aalsmeer' and the purple coloured 'Purple Cape' will mature in February if planted now. 'Purple Sprouting' broccoli is another winter favourite, too, and a real novelty. 'January King' cabbage is a French heirloom variety with purplish, curled outside leaves - delicious! Many folks also transplant the late 'Siberian' and 'Westland Winter' kale at this time of year. Winter hardy leeks can go in now as well, to round out your winter gardens.
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.