Did you know that fall gardening is possible in most of the pacific northwest? In fact, some of the best vegetables are produced during the warm days and cool nights of fall. These growing conditions add a touch of sweetness to kale and collards and they are actually improved by a touch of frost. Our Southern Oregon climate is perfect for planting a fall veggie garden but timing is everything.
While your summer veggie garden is pumping out produce it’s hard to think about planting anything more, but to have the best success timing is everything. So here are a few tips to help you get started.
With a little protection, cool weather crops can be harvested throughout the winter. Some fall-planted brassica varieties are designed to grow slowly through winter and be ready to harvest in early spring. By covering your crops with either a cold frame, floating row covers, or applying mulch, you can greatly extend your growing season and increase your yields. It is possible in a mild-winter to have success without one of these season extenders but I haven’t found a weather report or Farmer’s Almanac yet that was right 100% the time so it’s a bit of a gamble.
Most crops yield best if they attain most of their growth before it gets very cold. In the fall changes in day length, angle, and intensity of the sun, all play a role in planting. In our growing region, a good rule of thumb to follow is anything that forms a decent size head such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage should be planted mid-July through mid -August. It’s less important with beets, lettuce, kale, and other greens that can be harvested when they are small and tasty.
Our summer garden is usually in all it’s glory when it’s time to plant for fall and space is at a premium. If you wait till you have room, you may be planting too late. We like to tuck brassicas and lettuce in between summer crops. This helps give the young transplants a bit of shade and when we pull out the summer crops, viola, the fall garden is already planted. The crops we plant from seed or bulbs like garlic, beets, turnips, kohlrabi, radishes, and carrots do best if given their own row or space in a raised bed.
We like to fertilize when we plant, but be careful with fall crops not to overfertilize when planting. Too much nitrogen can encourage a flush of new growth which can be susceptible to freezing. It’s best to feed when planting and then again when the soil begins to warm in early spring.
Here is a list of varieties that we’ve chosen and grown especially for the fall garden.
Developed in 1951 & long considered the standard open-pollinated fall broccoli. Produces 6″ heads on stocky 20″ plants that are tasty and prolific. Waltham 29 also yields a bumper crop of side shoots. 92 days
This mid-early, compact, heat-tolerant broccoli variety features medium-small green beads, a smooth dome, and a round shape. Because of its exceptional heat tolerance in Zones 7-11, it’s well suited for fall harvest when planted in summer. Produces multiple side shoots. 70-75 days
Pale blue-green 7-8″ heads with a fine texture make this a great variety for our Southern Oregon climate. No wonder Premium Crop is an All-American Selection seed winner! 58 day
Extra-early maturity makes planting for fall harvest possible later in the summer than with any other Brussels sprouts. Produces solid, “bite-sized cabbages.” 1959 All-America winner is very productive and disease resistant. 85 days
100 days. One of the last open-pollinated varieties in existence that still retains excellent eating quality and uniformity. Bred in Hurst, England, Roodnerf is very cold hardy. The medium to tall plants yield plump, green sprouts. An excellent choice for fall plantings or very early spring.
An open-pollinated Danish heirloom introduced in 1909. Green, 6″ round, 3-4 lb, crisp, tender, solid interior. Compact, solid heads develop 3-4 lbs and 6-8″ in diameter with uniform maturity. Compact plants sit close to the ground, handy for smaller gardens. Heads hold well before and after harvest. Great for slaws, kimchee and sauerkraut! 68 days
‘Early Jersey Wakefield’
70 days. Introduced in the 1840s, with tasty, 2 lb, sweet and flavorful, conical heads that resist splitting. This very early variety was sold commercially in the late 1860s. Its pyramidal shape with sparse outside foliage permits closer spacing. A great short season variety and an excellent choice for fall gardens. We’ve grown this variety for years after being introduced to it by an older couple who lived next door and loved to share their gardening secrets with us. They’ve long since past away, but I still remember her smiling face as she’d hand me one of these beautiful cabbages over the garden fence.
Produces high yields of uniform, 2-3 lb. heads up to six weeks earlier than other varieties! Fast Vantage Hybrid Cabbage has a mild, sweet flavor and is good for eating fresh, in coleslaw, cooked, and made into sauerkraut. 50 days
‘Late Flat Dutch’
Introduced in the US around the 1860s, Late Flat Dutch is a very large cabbage! It’s a great keeper and the standard late season variety. Heads form up to 12 inches and weigh on an average around 12 pounds, but can get much larger. Considered the world’s premier storage cabbage, it keeps well for months. Great for making sauerkraut, kimchee, winter slaws, and stir-fries. 100 days
‘Purple of Sicily’
75-80 days. This sweet Italian heirloom is so lovely with it’s antioxidant-rich, brilliant purple color when raw. When cooked the heads turn to a bright green. The 2-3lb heads are sweet and somewhat insect resistant.
Snowball was first introduced in 1884 and is still hard to beat for the taste! It produces tasty snow-white, 6″ dense heads that are tucked down neatly into its green leaves. A good choice for our area. 70-80 days.
75 days) This heirloom variety was introduced before 1880. It’s a top producer of tender, blue-green leaves even in the heat, but really shines in the early spring or fall when kissed by a bit of frost to sweeten the leaves. Grows 2-3′ tall.
‘New Fire Red’
55 days Large, loose heads are green at the base and very deep red at the ruffled edges. Retains its crisp fresh flavor throughout the season. Bolt tolerant.
‘Black Seeded Simpson’
45 days) Easy, early tender green leaves that withstand heat, drought, and light frost. Great lettuce for both spring and fall. Quickly produces a full-sized, bright green open head with distinctively savoyed leaves. Heirloom variety.
48 days) An heirloom standard with h high productivity and amazing resistance to stress and disease, and it retains its color well into summer. Dark red oakleaf with extra frills, good flavor, heat tolerant, and slow to bolt. A lot of salad in these heads.
50 days) An all American selections winner in 1952 and has remained a favorite to this day. Full-size habit is loose and open, great for picking tender nad sweet baby leaves. Heirloom variety.
‘Blue Scotch Curled’
Introduced around 1863, this early variety produces flavorful crinkly green leaves. Use fresh in salads and on sandwiches and steamed cooked. This variety withstands cold weather well. Extremely hardy and will winter over without much protection. Good source of green in the winter. 65 days
Also known as ‘Dinosaur’ or Nero de Toscana’ this kale produces flavorful 18″ long by 3″ wide blue-green leaves with a heavily savoyed texture. Used fresh in salads and on sandwiches or cooked. It is best eaten when leaves are small and tender. The flavor is enhanced by frost! An Italian heirloom that dates back to the 1700s. 62 days
An open-pollinated heirloom originally from Siberia that was brought to Canada by Russian fur traders around 1885. Versatile specialty kale for salad mixes and bunching. Red Russian’s leaves are flat and uniform. Not only is red Russian cold hardy, but its reddish-purple color will intensify with cooler temperatures. 50 days
This gorgeous, frilly-leafed kale is an excellent source of hearty, fresh greens that are packed with antioxidants. In only a month you’ll be enjoying tender baby greens, or allow some plants to mature to their full size of 2–3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Undaunted by cold weather, these sturdy plants become more vibrantly colored as the temperatures drop. Vigorous plants produce in both spring and fall. Very cold tolerant. 50 days
Introduced in 1826, Bloomsdale is still a popular open-pollinated spinach. Dark green, savoyed leaves have a rich flavor. Does very well in our region, especially in the fall. Harvest at 42 days.
An open-pollinated variety that dates back to the 1750s. Fordhook Giant is a large, 24-28 inch plant with thick, savoyed, deep green leaves with white ribbing. It is excellent for bunching and has good heat tolerance. 50 days
Crimson, green, orange, pink, white, and yellow stalks are all contained in this well-known, colorful chard mix. The leaves are slightly savoyed with a mild taste. Use the small leaves just like spinach! Stir fry the large leaves with garlic and chicken. Remember to blanch the bigger leaves in a pot of boiling water with one tablespoon of salt for 5-10 minutes then drain. This virtually eliminates any of the bitter flavors you sometimes get in older leaves. 56 days
This striking new chard deserves center stage in edible or ornamental beds. Its white stems have a hot pink blush and long bright fuchsia stripes in contrast to its shiny, heavily savoyed, foot-wide leaves accented with white midribs. 60 days Open Pollinated.
And in the fall and winter when prices for fresh produce begin to climb again in the grocery stores you’ll be so thankful for your fall garden.