Mid September finds most north Idaho gardeners busy bringing in the last of the tomatoes, cukes and summer squashes. A late summer heat wave earlier this month really helped those heat seekers move along to luscious ripeness and the bounty is rolling in at the Second Street Chicken Ranch.
But I’m antsy…my summer crops are still going strong. Why, you ask, is this a problem? Because I’m ready, and nearly late, for planting the winter crops. Yes, you read that correctly, winter crops.
Who, in their right mind, would attempt to grow anything in north Idaho over the winter? What with frigid temperatures, freezing rain and several feet of snow? Well, I for one; and I’m betting that there are more. You see, fall has become the new spring. Yep, just like 50 is the new 30! (Hey, I’m buying into that more and more these days!).
It’s not impossible — even here at 47 degrees latitude — to have a successful crop of greens without a greenhouse. Last fall I planted spinach, covered it with straw for no reason other than to keep the cats out of the dirt, and this past spring I had the most delicious, tender spinach ever. Intrigued, I found a book on winter gardening and started planning the winter garden.
Now granted, you have to plant crops that like the cold and those are limited, but how fun is it going to be to pull carrots in December? Have beautiful, fresh salad greens right up until Christmas? And the bonus — most winter crops overwinter and start regrowing early in the spring — just like my spinach did last year. What a great way to get a jump on spring.
So, here I am, happily harvesting the beautiful fruits of summer, but instead of lamenting the pending end of the season, I am eagerly awaiting the next step. I’m not putting the garden to bed this fall, but freshening the sheets and moving into the 3rd season.
What about you, any plans for a winter crop?