This is the time of year when gardeners in the Pacific Northwest are understandably focused on summer crops: tomatoes, squash, basil, and all those other short-lived goodies. But people interested in growing their own food should also be dreaming about their winter harvest of Brussels sprouts, cabbage, rutabegas, and arugula on these hot summer days. Why? July is prime time for planting seeds for their fall and winter harvest.  “Our mild winters allow us to harvest things from the garden twelve months out of the year,” says Josh Kirschenbaum, Product Development Director with Territorial Seed Company.  “We’re very lucky.”

Plants need to be well established by the time cold weather hits, Kirschenbaum says, which is why it’s important to start planting fall crops now. Among the foods that are appropriate for fall and winter gardening are lettuce, spinach, and other greens; cole crops such as broccoli, kale, and cauliflower; and root vegetables like carrots, beets, and turnips. Some of these plants will stay viable for most of the winter, providing fresh veggies at a time of year when they’re getting more expensive in the grocery store. Things like cole crops and root vegetables will actually benefit from the colder weather, Kirschenbaum says.  “After they’ve been touched by the frost, the flavor is really enhanced. They’re amazing.”

Territorial Seed Company, based in Cottage Grove, is one of few seed companies that publishes a catalog dedicated exclusively to plants that are appropriate for fall and winter gardening. Their offerings are extensively tested to ensure they’re well adapted to the climate in western Oregon. Many stores that sell their seeds, including Down to Earth Home, Garden and Gift in Eugene, note the varieties that are best for cooler, wetter days.

Besides picking the correct seeds, Kirschenbaum notes that it’s very important to keep the fall garden well watered. Until plants have time to develop strong root systems, they will dry out and die quickly. July is prime time for planting winter gardens. Territorial provides a handy chart detailing when to plant which seeds. Their catalogs also provide a wealth of information on how to growth healthy, fruitful plants. It’s worth getting on their mailing list for that information alone. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they send new catalogs every January, when there’s little else to do but tend existing plants and dream about what will go in the garden in the spring!

What are you planting in your garden for Fall and Winter harvests?